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High blood pressure risk revealed in Top End First Nations communities

Joseph Guenzler -

In a first-of-its-kind study, screening has detected concerning levels of a major hypertension risk among young people in Australia's Top End.

Associate Professor Jun Yang has previously confirmed that primary aldosteronism (PA), a hormonal condition, is a significant yet often undetected contributor to high blood pressure (hypertension).

However, there is currently no available data on the prevalence of PA within Australian First Nations communities.

Through a partnership with Professor Gurmeet Singh from the Menzies School of Health Research, Dr. Yang and her team successfully conducted PA testing in pre-existing groups of young individuals, Australian First Nations communities, and non-Indigenous residents residing in the Northern Territory.

Their results, based on data from the Aboriginal Birth Cohort and Top End Cohort studies (supported by the Menzies), will be published in the latest edition of the Medical Journal of Australia.

A/Prof Yang believes the results are concerning in themselves, but also potentially open a window into broader issues of public health for Indigenous people.

"We found positive tests for PA in over a quarter of the urban-residing participants of the Cohort studies who were tested," she said.

"Australian First Nations people are known to have high rates of hypertension and cardiovascular disease, but this is the first time this type of testing has been done in these communities.

"PA is a highly modifiable risk factor for cardiovascular disease and correct identification will enable appropriate targeted treatment."

Lead author and PhD candidate Dr Elisabeth Ng said the "timely detection of primary aldosteronism is particularly important for Australian First Nations people due to their high rates of heart and kidney diseases, both of which may be associated with having too much aldosterone".

"Targeted treatment to block aldosterone action or remove aldosterone excess may be a lifesaver."

The next steps are to establish a process of appropriate screening process across the Top End.

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