Inflammatory genes linked to salt-sensitive blood pressure

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High Blood Pressure and Genes

One key to your high blood pressure might just be your inflammatory genes.

It may sound odd but mounting evidence suggests that inflammation, a part of the immune response implicated in diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer's and diabetes, may also help translate stress into high blood pressure.

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"There is a concept that hypertension is an inflammatory condition," says Dr. Haidong Zhu, molecular geneticist at the Medical College of Georgia. She's among the scientists who believe the connection between stress, inflammation and hypertension is the kidneys' ability to release sodium.

When stress activates the sympathetic nervous system (the fight-or-flight mechanism), the body increases production of interleukin 6, a pro-inflammatory factor, which ultimately leads to production of other inflammatory factors such as C reactive protein.

Stress also prompts the body to hold onto sodium to help temporarily raise blood pressure so you can deal with the situation, says Dr. Gregory Harshfield, director of MCG's Georgia Prevention Institute and an expert on what happens when the body doesn't let go afterward. It's called impaired stress-induced pressure natriuresis, which Dr. Harshfield has documented in young, healthy teens.

Dr. Zhu is now leading research to see if the reactions are related

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