Discover the impact of salt sensitivity on hypertension, exploring how it affects men and women differently. Learn about hormones, gender, and blood pressure management.
- Women are more salt-sensitive than men, affecting hypertension risk.
- Hormones and sex chromosomes play a role in salt sensitivity differences.
- Managing sodium intake is vital for salt-sensitive individuals.
High blood pressure, or hypertension, affects nearly 1.3 billion adults worldwide.
Many factors contribute to the risk of developing hypertension, such as age, ethnicity, weight, alcohol and tobacco use, sex, and existing health conditions.
One often-overlooked factor is salt sensitivity.
Recent research suggests that women of all ages and ethnicities are more salt-sensitive than men. Let’s dive deeper into the topic.
Understanding Salt Sensitivity
Salt sensitivity is the body’s tendency to retain salt rather than excrete it through the kidneys.
People with salt sensitivity experience noticeable increases or decreases in blood pressure when their dietary salt intake changes.
The American Heart Association estimates that salt sensitivity is present in about 51% of people with hypertension and 26% of people without high blood pressure.
Dr. Eric Belin de Chantemèle, study author and physiologist at the Vascular Biology Center at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University, highlights the significance of this finding:
“The most important fact highlighted in this review article is that women, whether pre or postmenopausal, are more salt sensitive than men.”
Salt Intake And Gender Differences
Traditionally, men under 65 have been considered to have a higher risk of hypertension than women.
However, the risk increases for women following menopause.
The reviewed research suggests that females’ predisposition to salt sensitivity may complicate this understanding.
Sebnem Unluisler, M.Sc., a genetic engineer at the London Regenerative Institute, explains that sex chromosomes may play a role in salt sensitivity:
“Increased vascular resistance from salt sensitivity leads to endothelial dysfunction, which may be more of a factor in females than in males.”
Hormones And Blood Pressure
The role of estrogen in blood pressure control has been debated for years.
The reviewed research found that salt-sensitive blood pressure increased after menopause when estrogen levels were lower.
Dr. Meagan Williams, internist and Director of Women’s Health at Harbor Health, suggests in Medical News Today that female sex hormones like estradiol might be protective against salt-sensitive blood pressure rather than causing women to be more salt sensitive.
“SSBP [salt-sensitive blood pressure] increases after menopause — which could suggest that female sex hormones (like estradiol) are actually protective against SSBP, rather than the factor that makes women more salt sensitive.” – she explains.
However, estrogen may not be the only hormone involved.
Dr. Belin de Chantemèle points out the role of aldosterone in salt-sensitive blood pressure.
He explains that women’s inability to decrease the production of aldosterone, which also controls the ability of blood vessels to relax, appears to reduce the ability of blood vessels to relax in response to salt ingestion.
Recommendations For Salt-Sensitive Women
While the reviewed research helps us understand the link between salt sensitivity and hypertension in women, it doesn’t provide specific recommendations.
“I think it’s hard to make recommendations for salt-sensitive women based solely on this review article, since it is primarily showing us that women are more salt sensitive than men and postulating as to why that is, [not] necessarily what to do about it. However, in general, it’s good for women who are salt sensitive to be attentive to their dietary sodium intake and try to reduce it if possible.” – says Dr. Williams.
Dr. Belin de Chantemèle echoes this advice for everyone, suggesting that people follow the American Heart Association’s recommendations regarding salt consumption.
“Currently, the average amount [of sodium] consumed per day is 3.4g when the AHA recommends 2.3g” – explains Dr. Belin de Chantemèle.
The research on salt sensitivity and its impact on hypertension reveals that women are more salt sensitive than men.
This difference might be attributed to factors such as hormones and sex chromosomes.
While the study provides valuable insights, it’s crucial for individuals, especially salt-sensitive women, to be attentive to their sodium intake and follow the American Heart Association’s recommendations.
In conclusion, understanding the role of salt sensitivity in blood pressure management can lead to better prevention and treatment strategies for hypertension in both men and women.
Hypertension: Salt intake may affect men and women differently. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/hypertension-blood-pressure-women-more-salt-sensitive-than-men
Salt Sensitivity of Blood Pressure: An Enigmatic Hypertension Phenotype. https://professional.heart.org/en/science-news/salt-sensitivity-of-blood-pressure/Commentary