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What Are the Effects of Elevated Renin Levels?

By C.B. Fox
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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In human anatomy, elevated renin levels can lead to hypertension. Over time, the increase in blood pressure caused by high levels of renin can lead to serious and sometimes life-threatening conditions. Under normal circumstances, renin is released to counteract a decrease in salts or in the volume of blood. Renin is used to increase the blood volume which creates an increase in pressure against the walls of the veins and arteries.

Elevated renin levels are a possible cause of high blood pressure. This enzyme is a part of a system that helps compensate for fluctuations in the level of sodium and potassium and well as differences in the volume of blood in the body. A decrease in the levels of any of these things can trigger the kidneys to release renin, which sets off a chain reaction that eventually results in increased levels of aldosterone being released by the adrenal gland.

With elevated aldosterone and renin in the bloodstream, a person's kidneys begin to reabsorb sodium and potassium salts that would otherwise be lost through the urine. These salts bind to water, increasing the volume of fluid present in the blood vessels. An increase in fluid leads to a rise in blood pressure because there is more blood in the arteries and veins pressing out against the vascular walls. While the renin cycle is important in order to properly balance the level of salts in the blood, elevated renin levels are common in today’s society in part because of the abundance of salt.

While elevated renin can be beneficial in a number of circumstances, consistently high renin levels can lead to hypertension, a condition that causes serious health complications. People with hypertension are at greater risk for cardio-vascular events such as heart attacks, strokes, and the rupture of aneurisms in the major blood vessels around the heart. Many of these conditions are life threatening, so controlling renin levels is important in order to protect a person's health.

Though the only condition directly caused by elevated renin is hypertension, there are a number of other health conditions that may be indicated by elevated levels of this enzyme. Dehydration and blood loss due to either internal or external injury can lead to high levels of renin because the hormone is released when the blood volume decreases. Certain medical conditions, such as cirrhosis, Addison's disease, and nephritic syndrome can also cause the body to produce more renin. Tumors in the kidneys also have been known to produce greatly increased levels of the renin. A patient showing elevated renin should be tested for these conditions in order to treat the cause of the excessive renin production and not just the symptom of high blood pressure.

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