A new study published by Nature Magazine states that doctors at Queen Mary University, Barts Hospital and Cambridge University Hospital have discovered a new scan that can detect and light up nodules in the adrenal glands that secrete the steroid hormone, aldosterone – a known cause of high blood pressure – which can then be safely removed by keyhole surgery, ending a patient’s need for further medication.
The scan uses a very short-acting dose of metomidate, a radioactive dye that sticks only to the aldosterone-producing nodule.
“Until now, we’ve only had the catheter test which is a technical tour de force and very invasive, inserting a catheter into the adrenal vein to collect blood, which not many doctors can do and often fails,” says Professor Morris Brown, co-senior author of the study and Professor of Endocrine Hypertension at Queen Mary University of London.
“This new scan is exciting as it means the nodules can be ablated (removed) and the condition cured,” Brown enthused.
Professor Brown believes the figures for those who have this hormone-induced blood pressure are underestimated as it’s tricky to diagnose.
“Diagnosis requires a blood test which is part of an electrolyte panel to detect the levels of potassium in the blood,” he says.
How to reduce your risk of hypertension
Know your numbers
Knowing your blood pressure numbers is key. Severe hypertension is when the top figure (the systolic pressure – when your heart beats and contracts to pump blood through your arteries) is over 180 and bottom figure (diastolic pressure – when your heart relaxes between beats) is over 110. You can buy a blood pressure monitor at home and check it consistently for a few days and take the average number or get it checked at your local pharmacy.
Change your lifestyle
Drinking too much alcohol, smoking, being overweight and not doing enough exercise as well as eating too much salt can all increase your blood pressure. Try to maintain a healthy weight and diet and make sure you do 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week (30 minutes for five days a week).
Reduce your stress
Stress itself doesn’t cause high blood pressure, but when stressed, you make poorer lifestyle choices and might drink more alcohol, exercise less or eat saltier, unhealthier food, all of which contributes to higher blood pressure.