Racial and ethnic modifiers of the salt-blood pressure response

John M. Flack, Kristine E. Ensrud, Stephen Mascioli, Cynthia A. Launer, Ken Svendsen, Patricia J. Elmer, Richard H. Grimm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


The relation between sodium and blood pressure is a centuries-old question. A substantial body of epidemiological and experimental data has accumulated that strongly implicates NaCl as having a causal role in the genesis of arterial hypertension. Prospective studies that have been performed in diverse populations that have manipulated NaCl exposure by diet or infusion have repeatedly documented an NaCl pressor effect Further, similar studies in biracial populations have also demonstrated a greater prevalence of "salt sensitivity" in blacks compared with whites. The reasons for this observation are not entirely clear; however, intrinsic or hypertension- induced renal abnormalities that limit natriuretic capacity, reduced Na+, K+-ATPase pump activity, other membrane ion transport disturbances, differential exposure to psychological stressors, greater insulin resistance, and dietary factors (reduced Ca+ and K+ intake) have all been suggested as possibly playing a role. Salt sensitivity appears to be a widespread phenomenon. However, it is critically important to determine what factors account for racial differences in salt sensitivity. Moreover, the prevalence of salt sensitivity in the general population is unknown. Current definitions of salt sensitivity are varied and unidirectional. In comparison with bidirectional criteria (blood pressure increase with salt loading and blood pressure decrease with salt restriction), they are probably inadequate to identify salt-sensitive individuals who manifest less extreme blood pressure change after dietary sodium or plasma volume manipulations. More sensitive criteria for diagnosing salt sensitivity will facilitate a better understanding of racial and ethnic differences in the prevalence of salt sensitivity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)I-115-I-121
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1991


  • Blood pressure
  • Ethnic differences
  • Sodium chloride
  • Sodium-dependent hypertension


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