Evidence Based
4.6 /5
18

Aldosterone Function & Health Effects (incl. Blood Pressure)

Written by Ana Aleksic, MSc (Pharmacy) | Reviewed by Genius Labs Science Team | Last updated:
Puya Yazdi
Medically reviewed by
Puya Yazdi, MD | Written by Ana Aleksic, MSc (Pharmacy) | Reviewed by Genius Labs Science Team | Last updated:

SelfHacked has the strictest sourcing guidelines in the health industry and we almost exclusively link to medically peer-reviewed studies, usually on PubMed. We believe that the most accurate information is found directly in the scientific source.

We are dedicated to providing the most scientifically valid, unbiased, and comprehensive information on any given topic.

Our team comprises of trained MDs, PhDs, pharmacists, qualified scientists, and certified health and wellness specialists.

All of our content is written by scientists and people with a strong science background.

Our science team is put through the strictest vetting process in the health industry and we often reject applicants who have written articles for many of the largest health websites that are deemed trustworthy. Our science team must pass long technical science tests, difficult logical reasoning and reading comprehension tests. They are continually monitored by our internal peer-review process and if we see anyone making material science errors, we don't let them write for us again.

Our goal is to not have a single piece of inaccurate information on this website. If you feel that any of our content is inaccurate, out-of-date, or otherwise questionable, please leave a comment or contact us at [email protected]

Note that each number in parentheses [1, 2, 3, etc.] is a clickable link to peer-reviewed scientific studies. A plus sign next to the number “[1+, 2+, etc...]” means that the information is found within the full scientific study rather than the abstract.

Aldosterone

Aldosterone is a hormone most people rarely think about, although it is vital for health. Aldosterone keeps the body hydrated and in proper mineral balance. But left unchecked, too much aldosterone leads to high blood pressure, heart disease, and mineral depletion.Too little of it and critical electrolyte imbalances can ensue. Read on to understand the roles of aldosterone.

Disclaimer: This post focuses on the science of blood pressure regulation and electrolyte balance in relation to aldosterone. It is solely informational. Talk to your healthcare provider if your blood pressure and/or labs are abnormal.

What is Aldosterone?

Definition & Function

Aldosterone is a hormone produced in the cortex of adrenal glands. It is known as a “mineralocorticoid.” [1]

Aldosterone helps the body retain sodium and water and excrete potassium, which results in higher blood pressure [1].

According to one experimental hypothesis, aldosterone has a daily rhythm to it. It seems to increase toward the end of the sleep phase, prior to the early morning (before cortisol rises) [2].

High blood levels of potassium typically signal the body to raise aldosterone production [1].

Aldosterone works in opposition to the atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP) produced in the heart, which excretes sodium and lowers blood pressure [3].

Both high and low aldosterone has been implicated in disease. The body is good at keeping this hormone in balance in health.

Blood Pressure Control

Aldosterone’s role in fluid balance is within the context of the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system (RAAS), which keeps our body fluids and blood pressure in strict control [1].

When cells in the kidneys recognize a reduction in blood flow (lower blood pressure), through a cascade of events, angiotensin I is produced. The angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) then converts it to angiotensin II, which stimulates the adrenal glands to produce aldosterone [1, 4].

Prorenin->Renin->Angiotensinogen->Angiotensin I (+ACE)->Angiotensin II->Aldosterone.

ACE inhibiting drugs (also known as ACEI) are used to block the angiotensin-converting enzyme, resulting in lower angiotensin II, lower aldosterone, and lower blood pressure [1].

ACEI are available only with a doctor’s prescription. They include drugs like lisinopril (Zestril) and captopril (Capoten).

Limitations

Note that aldosterone is not the only hormone that affects blood pressure regulation and electrolyte balance. The health of blood vessels, the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), and other pathways also impact blood pressure and heart health.

As an example, beta 2-adrenoreceptor blockers like propranolol block beta receptors in the heart that belong to the SNS [9].

Sympathetic, fight-or-flight activity can also be counteracted by parasympathetic, rest-and-digest activity. This is part of the cholinergic pathway in the body.

Lastly, blood pressure regulation can involve many other possible factors – including blood chemistry, environment, health status, and genetics – that may vary from one person to another.

Aldosterone Health Effects & Research

Immunity

We know little about the effects of aldosterone on the immune system.

Scientists are investigating whether aldosterone:

  • Increases CD8+ cells [5], which might hypothetically help fight viral infections
  • Can be beneficial for some types of inflammation like Uveitis (in animal models) [6] via blocking Nf-kB-induced TNF-alpha in blood cells [7].
  • Creates cysteine dioxygenase, which is important for the Sulfation pathway of Phase 2 detoxification. Sulfation is the addition of sulfate to a drug/toxin and most often it makes it less toxic.

Inflammation

High aldosterone is implicated in many chronic diseases.

Researchers are studying if it:

  • Increases IL-6, IL-1b [8], TNF [9] and induces Nf-kB, sometimes described as the master control switch of inflammation [10].
  • Promotes Th17 immunity [11], which has been linked with autoimmune diseases and chronic inflammation in limited studies.

More research is needed.

Heart Health & Blood Pressure

Too much aldosterone is particularly bad for the heart. High aldosterone directly raises blood pressure [12].

It is hypothesized to increase inflammation (ICAM-1, VCAM-1, TNF, IL-6, and CRP), fibrosis, oxidative stress, vessel dysfunction, and prevent regeneration of new cells in our blood vessels [13].

Other Research

Aside from the effects listed below, there are several experimental areas of aldosterone research. Animal and cell-based studies are exploring whether:

  • Prolonged exposure to high aldosterone and cortisol induced by chronic stress reduces hippocampal CB1 receptor binding site density, potentially leading to lower cannabinoid function [14].
  • High aldosterone can deplete the body of Magnesium [15] and Potassium [16].
  • Aldosterone in excess can deplete the body of Calcium, possibly contributing to osteoporosis [17, 18].

Human data on these pathways are lacking.

High Aldosterone

Associated Conditions

Conditions shown here are commonly associated with high aldosterone. The majority of studies covered in this section deal with associations only, which means that a cause-and-effect relationship hasn’t been established.

  • High Blood Pressure [19]
  • Cardiovascular Disease [20, 21] – Including Congestive Heart Failure, Coronary Artery Disease, and stroke.
  • Chronic kidney disease [21]
  • Osteoporosis [17, 18]
  • Autoimmune Disease [22]
  • Conn’s Syndrome – High blood pressure with an adrenal mass [19]. Other symptoms include low potassium in the blood, increased blood volume, and abnormally alkaline blood (aldosterone increases acid secretion).

Potential Causes

Causes shown here are commonly associated with high aldosterone. Work with your doctor or other health care professional for an accurate diagnosis.

High aldosterone is typically caused by benign aldosterone-producing tumors on the adrenal glands [23].

The other causes listed below haven’t been proven in large enough studies and remain experimental.

  • Stress and Anxiety [24]. When the fight or flight nervous system is activated, aldosterone is increased. ACTH part of the mechanism by which the nervous system increases aldosterone [25].
  • Elevated CCK – CCK (a gut hormone) increases aldosterone secretion in humans and rats, which may increase blood pressure and cause salt retention [26].
    • People with IBS may be more likely to release too much CCK in response to a fat-rich meal, but it’s unknown how this affects aldosterone [27].
    • Lectin Consumption may elevate CCK in rats [28]. In men, beans also increased CCK release, and the study attributed that to the beneficial impact of fiber [29]. All in all, we don’t know if lectins can raise aldosterone in humans.
  • Magnesium inadequacy [30, 31]
  • Zinc inadequacy [32]
  • Low blood pressure [33] – if you have low blood pressure, the body tries to compensate and temporarily brings up aldosterone. Once the blood pressure is back to normal, aldosterone normalizes.
  • Potassium supplementation [33]
  • High histamine levels stimulate the secretion of aldosterone in dogs, but the effects of excess histamine in humans are unknown [34].

Conventional Treatment

Treatment for hyperaldosteronism depends on the underlying cause. The main goal is to normalize or reduce the negative effects of high aldosterone levels, which include high blood pressure and low potassium levels.

If the cause is an adrenal gland tumor, treatment options include [35]:

  • Surgically removing the gland containing the tumor (adrenalectomy)
  • Aldosterone-blocking drugs (e.g. mineralocorticoid receptor antagonists)
  • Lifestyle changes (e.g. limiting sodium intake, losing weight, regular exercise)

If the cause is overactivity of both adrenal glands (bilateral adrenal hyperplasia), treatment options include [35]:

  • Aldosterone-blocking drugs (e.g. mineralocorticoid receptor antagonists)
  • Lifestyle changes (e.g. limiting sodium intake, losing weight, regular exercise)

Complementary Approaches

You may try the complementary approaches listed below if you and your doctor determine that they could be appropriate for lowering your aldosterone levels.

Most of these approaches have only been researched in animals. Proper clinical research is lacking to support them.

Remember that none of them should ever be done in place of what your doctor recommends or prescribes.

Minerals & Diet

Supplements

These supplements are proposed to Inhibit ACE, but their effects and safety in humans with high aldosterone hasn’t been investigated:

Supplements have not been approved by the FDA for medical use and generally lack solid clinical research. Regulations set manufacturing standards for them but don’t guarantee that they’re safe or effective.

Additionally, supplement-drug interactions can be dangerous and, in rare cases, even life-threatening. That’s why it’s so important to consult your healthcare provider before supplementing and let them know about all drugs and supplements you are using or considering.

Low Aldosterone

Potential Causes

Causes shown here are commonly associated with low aldosterone.

The main potential causes include [43, 44, 45, 46]

  • Primary adrenal insufficiency (Addison’s Disease) – a disease of inefficient steroid hormone production
  • Genetic mutations
  • Diabetes
  • Kidney disease
  • Lead poisoning
  • Severe illness
  • Certain medications (including NSAIDs)

Other possible causes that are being researched but are considered experimental and less relevant include:

  • Chronic Inflammation (potentially via TNF-alpha, IL-6 and Interleukin 1) [47, 48].
  • Age-related hearing loss – Also associated with age-related Potassium depletion [49].
  • Hyponatremia and Headaches from intense, prolonged exercise
  • Aging (aldosterone levels may naturally decline with age) [50].
  • High Atrial Natriuretic Peptide (ANP) – Inhibits aldosterone release [51]. ANP has the opposite function of aldosterone on sodium in the kidney – aldosterone stimulates sodium retention and ANP generates sodium loss.

Treatment of low aldosterone levels (hypoaldosteronism) depends on the underlying condition.

Factors that May Increase Aldosterone (Experimental)

Scientists are researching whether the following factors and pathways increase aldosterone:

However, their impact remains unknown. Human data are lacking.

About the Author

Ana Aleksic

Ana Aleksic

MSc (Pharmacy)
Ana received her MS in Pharmacy from the University of Belgrade.
Ana has many years of experience in clinical research and health advising. She loves communicating science and empowering people to achieve their optimal health. Ana spent years working with patients who suffer from various mental health issues and chronic health problems. She is a strong advocate of integrating scientific knowledge and holistic medicine.

Click here to subscribe

RATE THIS ARTICLE

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars
(22 votes, average: 4.55 out of 5)
Loading...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.