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High blood pressure: Adrenal disease could increase your BP reading

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Also known as hypertension, high blood pressure is usually caused by atherosclerosis – when the arteries are clogged by fatty deposits. Yet, adrenal disease could be another culprit.

What’s adrenal disease?

John Hopkins Medicine labels adrenal disease as Addison’s disease (i.e. an adrenal insufficiency).

This occurs when the adrenal glands – located above the kidneys – don’t make enough of the hormone cortisol, as they’re damaged.

The adrenal glands become damaged when the immune system mistakenly attacks them.

Healthy adrenal gland work in tandem with the hypothalamus and pituitary glands in the brain to create cortisol.

Cortisol helps break down fats, proteins, and carbohydrates while controlling blood pressure.

Secondary adrenal insufficiency (which differs from Addison’s disease) occurs when the the pituitary gland doesn’t make enough of the hormone ACTH (adrenocorticotropin).

This, in turn, results in the adrenal glands not making enough cortisol.

Symptoms of an Addison’s disease

These signs are specific to Addison’s disease, and include the following:

  • Dark skin
  • Bluish-black colour around the nipples, mouth, rectum, scrotum or vagina

General signs of an adrenal insufficiency, seen when a person is under physical stress, includes:

  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Weight loss
  • Lack of appetite
  • Muscle aches
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea

If left untreated, an adrenal insufficiency may lead to severe abdominal pain, extreme weakness, kidney failure and shock.

Tests for adrenal insufficiency include blood and urine samples, where the laboratory can check for levels of the adrenal hormones and ACTH.

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A person suspected of this condition may also undergo imaging tests, which include X-rays, ultrasound and an MRI.

Treatment includes hormone supplementation, such as corticosteroid medication.

The Mayo Clinic notes that obstructive sleep apnoea, kidney disease and thyroid disease can lead to elevated blood pressure.

There are other risk factors for developing hypertension, which include obesity and tobacco use.

These two risk factors are preventable, meaning if you don’t smoke and lose any excess body weight, you can reduce your risk of hypertension.

The Mayo Clinic explained: “The greater your body mass, the more blood you need to supply oxygen and nutrients to your tissues.

“As the amount of blood going through your blood vessels increases, so does the force on your artery walls.”

Smoking tobacco, chewing tobacco or even breathing in second-hand smoke can increase your blood pressure.

As well as eradicating these two risk factors, it’ll be helpful to limit alcohol consumption and salt.

The weekly limit of alcohol consumption, recommended by the NHS, is 14 units per week.

This means not drinking everyday, and having no more than two glasses of wine or beer on the days you are drinking.

The NHS also suggests reducing your salt intake by refraining from adding it to your cooking.

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