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Kidney Int. 1982 Feb;21(2):371-8.

Abnormal relationship between sodium intake and sympathetic nervous system activity in salt-sensitive patients with essential hypertension.


To examine the mechanisms underlying the sensitivity to sodium intake in a subset of patients with essential hypertension, we studied the effects of different sodium intake (10, 100, 200 mEq/day) on blood pressure, the function of the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system, and on blood levels of catecholamines in 20 patients with essential hypertension and 10 normal subjects. Mean blood pressure (MBP) was not different in hypertensive and normal subjects during low sodium diet. But, with high sodium intake, MBP increased by at least 10% in 12 patients (salt-sensitive), whereas in the remaining 8 patients (salt-resistant) and in normal subjects, MBP did not change significantly. This phenomenon cannot be attributed to differences in sodium retention because the percent change in body weight ad the urinary sodium excretion in the salt-sensitive patients was not different than it was in salt-resistant patients or in normal subjects. The observed difference in blood pressure response to high sodium intake in salt-sensitive patients is also not dependent on an impaired suppressibility of the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system because there were no significant differences in the basal levels of PRA and aldosterone between the groups, and because the orthostatic increments in PRA were significantly lower in salt sensitive than they were in the salt-resistant patients and in normal subjects. Plasma norepinephrine (NE) levels were not significantly different between normal subjects or hypertensive patients while on low sodium intake. But during high sodium intake, they decreased significantly (P less than 0.05) in normal subjects (from 22 +/- 3.4 to 12 +/- 2.3 ng/dl) and in salt-resistant patients (from 17 +/- 4.5 to 13 +/- 2.4 ng/dl) but not in salt-sensitive patients (from 20 +/- 1.9 to 22 +/- 3.2 ng/dl). Furthermore, the majority of salt-sensitive patients displayed inappropriately high plasma NE in relation to their urine excretion of sodium during high sodium intake. Finally, the increments in plasma NE after 5 min of standing were significantly greater in salt-sensitive patients than they were in salt-resistant patients and normal subjects during both low or high sodium intake. These data indicate that a subset of patients with essential hypertension may have impaired suppressibility of plasma NE during high sodium intake, which suggests hyperactivity of the sympathetic nervous system in these patients. These aberrations may be responsible for the increase in MBP in the salt-sensitive patients during high sodium intake.

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