Low potassium may trigger high blood pressure

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ISLAMABAD: Low potassium levels are likely to trigger high blood pressure, thanks to a specific gene, says a new study.

“There has been a lot of publicity about lowering salt or sodium in the diet, but not enough on increasing dietary potassium,” said the study’s co-author Susan Hedayati, of the University of Texas (U-T) Southwestern Medical Centre in Dallas, Texas. Researchers analysed data on approximately 3,300 subjects from the Dallas Heart Study, half of whom were African American. The results showed that the amount of potassium in urine samples was strongly related to blood pressure (BP).

“The lower the potassium in the urine, hence the lower the potassium in the diet, the higher the blood pressure,” said Hedayati. “This effect was even stronger than the effect of sodium on blood pressure.” The link between low potassium and high BP remained significant even when age, race, and other cardiovascular risk factors – including high cholesterol, diabetes, and smoking – were taken into account, said an U-T release. Research by Chou-Long Huang, co-author of this study, found evidence that a specific gene, called WNK1, may be responsible for potassium’s effects on BP. “We are currently doing more research to test how low potassium in the diet affects blood pressure through the activity of this gene,” added Hedayati.

Co-authors include Abu Minhajuddin, Orson W. Moe and Chou-Long Huang. These findings were presented at the American Society of Nephrology 41st annual meting in Philadelphia. Iron supplements can reduce infant mortality: Iron supplements given during pregnancy are known to prevent deaths in newborns, which has been validated by studies in China. “After comparing our results with other studies in Indonesia, India, the US and Bangladesh, it appeared the reduction in neonatal mortality was related to the increased duration of pregnancy from the iron in the supplements,” said Michael Dibley of the University of Sydney, who was associated with the study.

Hong Yan, the study’s principal investigator, from Xi’an Jiaotong University College of Medicine, said: “Our research demonstrates that nutrient supplements for pregnant women in developing countries need to have an adequate amount of iron to prevent premature births and reduce infant mortality.” In China, the most populated country, neonatal mortality accounts for more than 50 percent of the deaths of children under five.

Children with low birth weight are at a higher risk of mortality, and one of the major causes of low birth weight in developing countries is the poor nutritional status of the mother before and during pregnancy, said a Sydney University release.

“It is estimated that 1.2 million low weight babies are born each year in China, however there are not yet any specific policies or programmes for the distribution of multiple micronutrient or iron/folic acid supplements during pregnancy, even to disadvantaged women,” Dibley added.

The study, which took place over four years in two poor rural counties in northwest China, assessed the impact of taking iron/folic acid and multiple micronutrient supplements (containing 15 minerals and vitamins) during pregnancy, compared with folic acid alone. Eye disorders most common among children:: Eye disorders, along with allergies and asthma, are most common among children, according to a new report. It said more than 411,000 children suffered from with long-term eye disorders.

“Most of these children have either long- or short-sightedness,” said Robert Long of the Australian Institute’s Health and Family Welfare (AIHW). About one in six 10-14 year olds wear glasses or contact lenses to correct sight. “There are also about 4,20,000 GP visits each year that deal with children’s eye problems, with most of these (62 percent) being conjunctivitis infections,” Long said.

In 2006-07 about 600,000 eye-related Medicare services were provided to children. The vast majority of these were for optometry services such as eye exams and prescribing glasses.

Nationally, there were nearly 9,000 hospitalisations in 2006-07 for children with eye diseases and disorders, according to an AIHW release.

Rates of congenital eye malformations decreased between 1998 and 2003, although they were still the most common reason for eye-related hospitalisation among infants. Cases of eye-related cancers and eye-related deaths remain very low for children.

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