According to the American Heart Association, high blood pressure (hypertension), affects more than 100 million people in the United States. This represents a massive proportion of all adults in the US, and, more alarmingly, this percentage is continuing to grow. Hypertension is known as “the silent killer” since it is the number one cause of death in the United States, but has no symptoms. For these reasons, much effort is expended on finding solutions will to the problem of hypertension.
In recent years, a variety of studies have noted a connection between high blood pressure and low levels of zinc. However, an understanding of the exact mechanism has remained elusive.
It is known that sodium absorption plays an essential role in maintaining healthy blood pressure levels. In particular, the sodium chloride cotransporter (NCC), produced in the kidneys, causes sodium to be reabsorbed into the body. Excess sodium is normally excreted.
However, higher levels of NCC will inhibit this process. Therefore, when NCC levels are too high, excess sodium is pumped back into the body, causing a rise in blood pressure.
In a recent study published in the American Journal of Physiology: Renal Physiology, researchers ran a series of experiments to determine the precise relationship between zinc, NCC, and hypertension.
They began by demonstrating that mice provided with a diet deficient in zinc went on to develop hypertension. Later, they divided this group of mice into two groups: one group continued to be fed a zinc-deficient diet, while the other group had their diet changed to include adequate levels of zinc. As hypothesized, the blood pressure of the mice in the second group soon returned to normal, while the blood pressure of the mice in the zinc-deficient group remained high.
More importantly, the researchers showed that NCC levels and NCC activity are affected by the presence of zinc. Higher levels of zinc are associated with lower levels NCC activity, while lower levels of zinc are associated with higher levels of NCC activity.
This new research has provided an explanation as to why zinc deficiency leads to hypertension: it increases the activity of the cotransporter NCC, causing sodium to be reabsorbed into the body. Scientists are now hopeful that new medications may be on the horizon for controlling this widespread and dangerous disease.
At Atlantic Coast Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center, in Lakewood, NJ, we pay close attention to the needs of our residents, including those with hypertension. We take a restorative approach to senior health, maximizing function and mobility in a positive and upbeat atmosphere.
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