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Hypertension. 1994 Apr;23(4):531-50.

Salt sensitivity in hypertension. Renal and cardiovascular implications.

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Department of Medicine, University of Southern California Medical Center, Los Angeles 90033.


The mechanisms responsible for the increase in blood pressure response to high salt intake in salt-sensitive patients with essential hypertension are complex and only partially understood. A complex interaction between neuroendocrine factors and the kidney may underlie the propensity for such patients to retain salt and develop salt-dependent hypertension. The possible role of vasodilator and natriuretic agents, such as the prostaglandins, endothelium-derived relaxing factor, atrial natriuretic factor, and kinin-kallikrein system, requires further investigation. An association between salt sensitivity and a greater propensity to develop renal failure has been described in certain groups of hypertensive patients, such as blacks, the elderly, and those with diabetes mellitus. Salt-sensitive patients with essential hypertension manifest a deranged renal hemodynamic adaptation to a high dietary salt intake. During a low salt diet, salt-sensitive and salt-resistant patients have similar mean arterial pressure, glomerular filtration rate, effective renal plasma flow, and filtration fraction. On the other hand, during a high salt intake glomerular filtration rate does not change in either group, and effective renal blood flow increases in salt-resistant but decreases in salt-sensitive patients; filtration fraction and glomerular capillary pressure decrease in salt-resistant but increase in salt-sensitive patients. Salt-sensitive patients are also more likely than salt-resistant patients to manifest left ventricular hypertrophy, microalbuminuria, and metabolic abnormalities that may predispose them to cardiovascular diseases. In conclusion, salt sensitivity in hypertension is associated with substantial renal, hemodynamic, and metabolic abnormalities that may enhance the risk of cardiovascular and renal morbidity.

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