Publication Date

Spring 2017

Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Nancy Rice (Director), Sigrid Jacobshagen, Kenneth Crawford

Degree Program

Department of Biology

Degree Type

Master of Science


Chronic noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) are the largest contributor to mortality rates worldwide including in low- and middle- income countries (LMICs) which already suffer from high rates of infectious disease. Among the four major NCDs that cause 38 million deaths annually, cardiovascular disease (CVD) causes 17.5 million of these annual deaths. The primary risk factor of CVD is hypertension. Kenya, a developing country in Sub-Saharan Africa, has a high rate of hypertension with low (2.6%) management rates. Prior research from our lab has identified a population of Kenyans with a high prevalence of hypertension that is not statistically correlated with typical known risk factors such as obesity, hypercholesterolemia, and behaviors of smoking and lack of exercise. This study investigated the hypothesis that high dietary salt consumption and low K+ dietary intake are contributing to the etiology of high blood pressure in this community. To test our hypothesis, two spot urine samples representing nocturnal excretions (evening and morning) and blood pressure measurements were collected from 135 participants. All samples were analyzed for Na+, K+ and Cl- content using the Smartlyte Electrolyte Analyzer. The average of each spot urine sample was extrapolated to an estimated 24-h value by the method of Mills, et al. The overall population mean urine electrolyte excretion values for Na+, K+ and Cl- were 170.6 ± 89.3 mmol/L, 82.0 ± 54.0 mmol/L, and 87.7 ± 42.1 mmol/L, respectively. While these values fall within the suggested levels for Na+ (40-220 mmol/L) and K+ (25-125 mmol/L), they are under normal excretion levels for Cl- (110-250mmol/L). Overall ion excretion was higher in females than males, although only K+ values were statistically significant (p < 0.05). Analysis of Na+ and Cl- excretion from individuals stratified by blood pressure, revealed significant differences (p < 0.05) between normotensive and hypertensive stage I individuals for both electrolytes (57.9 mmol/L vs. 88.9 mmol/L and 65.5 mmol/L vs. 96.7 mmol/L, respectively). Overall, these results suggest that our sample population consumes dietary salt within a normal range and thus, the observed prevalence of hypertension likely results from other genetic and environmental factors.


International Public Health | Public Health