African Americans And High Blood Pressure
As it Relates to Plasma Renin

Researchers have noted that African Americans and high blood pressure have on average lower plasma renin levels.   But how did these researchers come to this theory?   We have to go back into black history...the slave trade.


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One of their theory states that because conditions were so horrendous during the crossings from Africa on slave ships the death rates were exceptionally high.   Many of the deaths, they say, were caused by salt and water wasting conditions such as dehydration and diarrhea.


The Genetics Factor Of African Americans

If the slave's DNA was pre-dispose to retaining sodium then that individual's survival increased. Now that same tendency, to retain sodium, that helped them to survive that crossing, is now working against their descendants who are now predisposed to having high blood pressure because of our modern day lifestyle.


Though the increase in death rates are also linked to a combination in lack of exercise, unhealthy diet, obesity, psychological and social stressors are also important factors that have increased in African Americans and high blood pressure consequences.


African-Americans are the most seriously affected in developing high blood pressure at twice the rate of Caucasians.  The death rates reveals that 30% of African American men and 20% African American women die due to the complications of high blood pressure.


For more insight on how high blood pressure affects the black community do read Dr. Beverly Yates book on Heart Health for Black Women.



Heart Health for Black Women

I personally love her checklist on how to stay on track for long term health by providing you with a Daily Maintenance Checklist of Heart Healthy Activities for African Americans and high blood pressure diagnosed.

Other high risk groups include Puerto Ricans, Cubans, and Mexicans that research has shown has had more severe consequences to hypertension because they tend not to take their medications.


Researchers stated that a dietary approach is very successful among African Americans with high blood pressure using the guidelines of the Dietary Approach To Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet.



What is Plasma Renin?

One of the most important determinants of high blood pressure is the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system (RAAS) which are the three compounds involved with African Americans and High Blood Pressure biochemical reactions.

Angiotensinogen is a protein that is continuously produced in your liver.

Renin is an enzyme that is released by your kidneys when you are stressful, when you are exercising and also reaction to changes in your diet.

When these two agents are joined in your bloodstream they form angiotensin I.

As your blood carries angiotensin I through your lungs, it reacts with angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) to form angiotensin II.

Angiotensin II does two things, especially to African Americans and high blood pressure diagnosed:
  • It causes the muscular walls of your arteries, and particularly your arterioles, to contract. This decreases their diameter and drives up your blood pressure.

  • Then angiotensin II prompts your adrenal glands, which is located on top of your kidneys, to release aldosterone - a hormone. This hormone signals your kidney to keep more sodium and water in your bloodstream so that it is not excreted through your urine.

This resulted in increased blood volume and higher blood pressure.

So you see how RAAS is crucial for your health, and remember the diameter of your blood vessels and your blood pressure are constantly changing due to your body's needs, reactions to stress and daily life inter-actions.

So when RAAS is too active, your blood pressure is consistently elevated, it is estimated that is one of the primary causes of high blood in about the third of all people with hypertension.

To control high blood pressure in difficult cases, you have to figure out what is the cause, and the best way is to measure the renin - a kidney enzyme, and aldosterone - an adrenal gland hormone, in the blood plasma.

To get a good reading of plasma renin, your doctor gives you a dose of diuretic to stimulate the production of renin and aldosterone.

The relation between the kidney and adrenal gland is to regulate your body salt and water.

When it goes wrong, it causes high blood pressure, and according to the American Heart Association, hypertension hurts your heart by pushing it to the limits.


How It Goes Wrong

If your kidney senses that your body is too dry or that your blood pressure is too low, it puts out renin, the enzyme that activates a precursor to angiotensis I, which is a short chain of amino acids.  Then your angiotensin I is converted to angiotensin II by an enzyme called angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE).


Now angiotensin II can raise your blood pressure, because it constricts your arteries. Also, it goes to your outer part of the adrenal gland, the adrenal cortex, and causes your adrenal gland to release aldosterone.


Then aldosterone goes to your kidney and causes salt and water retention, excretion of potassium, magnesium and other ions.  This is the link between African Americans and high blood pressure causes.


The Link Of African Americans And High Blood Pressure

African Americans on average have lower plasma renin levels.

Researchers have found that individuals from Africa, and individuals with African ancestors, are at least ten times more likely to have high blood pressure with low renin levels due to the enlargement of adrenal cortex.




Dietary Treatment

Lower your salt consumption, increase your intake of potassium, magnesium and calcium, while eating as much fruits and vegetables as possible daily.

And last but not the least, stop smoking and become more active.



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