Simple blood test could decrease risk of stroke, heart attack

Australia’s largest study of a common yet underdiagnosed cause of high blood pressure is starting at Hudson Institute, with the aim of preventing heart attack and stroke.

Primary aldosteronism (PA) is a potentially curable cause of high blood pressure (hypertension) caused by the over-production of the hormone aldosterone from the adrenal glands. If left undiagnosed, it can get worse over time, leaving sufferers prone to stroke and heart attack at a young age.

Dr Jun Yang, a Hudson Institute Research Fellow, School of Clinical Sciences Early Career Research Fellow, and Consultant Endocrinologist at Monash Health, has been awarded three new grants for research that could change clinical management of Primary aldosteronism. The grants are

  1. Heart Foundation Vanguard grant, $74,336, to fund the clinical component of the project, primarily patient recruitment and assessment, over 2 years.
  2. Foundation for High Blood Pressure Research grant (Early Career Research Transition Grant), $20,000, to fund the laboratory-based component of the project, in particular, biomarker identification.
  3. Collier Charitable Fund grant, $26,000, for the purchase of specialised equipment.

“This project will be the largest study of PA in Australia and aims to find out exactly how common this condition is in our community by asking GPs to screen their hypertensive patients for PA using a simple blood test,” Dr Yang said.

“An estimated one in 10 people with high blood pressure have primary aldosteronism, but most aren’t aware they have the condition. Only one in 200 patients with PA are diagnosed because many doctors do not screen for it.

“As a result, many hypertensive patients with undiagnosed primary aldosteronism are taking blood pressure medications that won’t help.

“If left undiagnosed, the hypertension can get worse and may become increasingly difficult to control with costly drugs, leaving patients prone to strokes and heart attacks from what is a preventable health burden.”

In the project, patients with PA will be identified at an early, treatable stage to offer targeted and effective treatment to cure the condition or prevent permanent damage.

Dr Yang says is hopeful the project will lead to the implementation of new management guidelines in GP clinics across Australia.

“If this simple screening process is found to be cost-effective, it will inform new management guidelines so that more patients with hypertension can benefit from the early detection, treatment and cure of PA.”

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