What is Aldosterone?
Most individuals have never heard about this particular hormone, yet it plays an important role in cardiovascular health. Aldosterone is produced in the cortex of the adrenal glands, which are located above the kidneys. Understanding this hormone will help you understand your body better, and help you take measures to ensure optimal health.
Aldosterone affects the body's ability to regulate blood pressure. It sends the signal to organs, like the kidney and colon, that can increase the amount of sodium the body sends into the bloodstream or the amount of potassium released in the urine. The hormone also causes the bloodstream to re-absorb water with the sodium to increase blood volume. All of these actions are integral to increasing and lowering blood vessels. Indirectly, the hormone also helps maintain the blood's pH and electrolyte levels.
Aldosterone is closely linked to two other hormones: renin and angiotensin, which create the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system. This system is activated when the body experiences a decrease in blood flow to the kidneys, such as after a drop in blood pressure, or a significant drop in blood volume after a hemorrhage or serious injury. Renin is responsible for the production of angiotensin, which then causes the release of aldosterone. Once the body is rehydrated and has proper salt levels in the blood, renin levels fall, and aldosterone levels lower as a result.
What can go wrong with aldosterone?
In a healthy individual, the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system functions without interference, helping to regulate and control blood pressure levels naturally. However, individuals can have too-high or too-low amounts of aldosterone, and both of these can impact aldosterone function.
Individuals with high levels of aldosterone have a condition known as hyperaldosteronism, and this is typically caused by small, benign tumors on the adrenal glands. Hyperaldosteronism can cause high blood pressure, low potassium levels and an abnormal increase in blood volume because of the way the hormone affects the body.
It's also possible to have low levels of aldosterone. Primary adrenal insufficiency, a disease that causes a general loss of adrenal function, can be a cause. Patients with primary adrenal insufficiency causing low levels of aldosterone may experience low blood pressure, increased potassium levels, and lethargy.
Genetic mutations can also affect the production of aldosterone. Patients with this rare genetic disorder will experience symptoms similar to primary adrenal insufficiency but the symptoms are typically less severe.
Questions to ask your doctor
If you are struggling with maintaining a healthy blood pressure, and also have changes in blood potassium levels, you may want to talk to your doctor about aldosterone. Consider asking your doctor if your hormones could be the cause of your blood pressure and potassium struggles, especially if lifestyle changes are not helping. If aldosterone levels are not where they should be, talk to your doctor about changes or treatments that are possible to help your condition.
If you have further questions about aldosterone or other hormones in your body, the best source of answers is a qualified endocrinologist. Visit our Find an Endocrinologist tool to find one located near you.