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1.  Circulating Dopamine and C-Peptide Levels in Fasting Nondiabetic Hypertensive Patients 
Diabetes Care  2012;35(8):1771-1773.
OBJECTIVE
Accumulating evidence supports a potential role for dopamine in the regulation of insulin secretion. We examined the association between circulating dopamine and C-peptide concentrations using data from the Graz Endocrine Causes of Hypertension (GECOH) study.
RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS
After 12 h of fasting, we measured plasma dopamine and serum C-peptide levels and established determining factors of insulin secretion in 201 nondiabetic hypertensive patients (mean age 48.1 ± 16.0 years; 61.7% women).
RESULTS
Mean dopamine and C-peptide concentration were 33.4 ± 38.6 pg/mL and 3.1 ± 2.7 ng/mL, respectively. A strong and inverse correlation was observed between dopamine and C-peptide levels (r = −0.423, P < 0.001). There was no significant relationship between C-peptide, plasma epinephrine, and norepinephrine. C-peptide levels decreased steadily and significantly from tertile 1 of dopamine (3.6 ng/mL [95% CI 2.9–4.1]) to tertile 3 (1.6 ng/mL [1.5–2.7], P < 0.001) after multivariate adjustment.
CONCLUSIONS
The inverse association between dopamine and C-peptide highlights the need to evaluate whether dopamine could be effective for modulating endocrine pancreatic function.
doi:10.2337/dc11-2384
PMCID: PMC3402263  PMID: 22699284
2.  Vitamin D and Cardiovascular Disease 
Nutrients  2013;5(8):3005-3021.
Vitamin D deficiency, as well as cardiovascular diseases (CVD) and related risk factors are highly prevalent worldwide and frequently co-occur. Vitamin D has long been known to be an essential part of bone metabolism, although recent evidence suggests that vitamin D plays a key role in the pathophysiology of other diseases, including CVD, as well. In this review, we aim to summarize the most recent data on the involvement of vitamin D deficiency in the development of major cardiovascular risk factors: hypertension, obesity and dyslipidemia, type 2 diabetes, chronic kidney disease and endothelial dysfunction. In addition, we outline the most recent observational, as well as interventional data on the influence of vitamin D on CVD. Since it is still an unresolved issue whether vitamin D deficiency is causally involved in the pathogenesis of CVD, data from randomized controlled trials (RCTs) designed to assess the impact of vitamin D supplementation on cardiovascular outcomes are awaited with anticipation. At present, we can only conclude that vitamin D deficiency is an independent cardiovascular risk factor, but whether vitamin D supplementation can significantly improve cardiovascular outcomes is still largely unknown.
doi:10.3390/nu5083005
PMCID: PMC3775239  PMID: 23912328
vitamin D; 25-OH-cholecalciferol; vitamin D deficiency; cardiovascular disease; cardiovascular risk factors; mortality
3.  Vitamin D, arterial hypertension & cerebrovascular disease 
Vitamin D is mainly derived from endogenous ultraviolet-B induced vitamin D synthesis in the skin, and the current high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency can, therefore, largely be attributed to lifestyle related low sunlight exposure. Regulation of bone and mineral metabolism is a classic vitamin D effect, but the identification of the vitamin D receptor (VDR) in almost all human cells suggests a role for vitamin D also in extra-skeletal diseases. Experimental studies demonstrated several antihypertensive and vascular protective effects of vitamin D, such as suppression of the renin angiotensin aldosterone system, beneficial modulation of classic cardiovascular risk factors, and anti-atherosclerotic properties including improvements of endothelial function. Additional neuroprotective actions of vitamin D have also been reported. In line with this, epidemiological studies have largely shown that vitamin D deficiency is an independent risk factor for arterial hypertension and strokes. Data from randomized controlled trials (RCTs) are, however, limited and less promising, with currently no confirmation that vitamin D reduces stroke incidence. Whereas some RCTs suggest that vitamin D supplementation might modestly reduce blood pressure, this has not been consistently observed in all studies. It is, therefore, premature to recommend vitamin D supplementation for the prevention and treatment of arterial hypertension and stroke. Nevertheless, the fact that patients with arterial hypertension and cerebrovascular disease are at a relatively high risk of vitamin D deficiency, and therewith associated musculoskeletal diseases can serve as a rationale for the evaluation, prevention and treatment of vitamin D deficiency in these patients.
PMCID: PMC3724247  PMID: 23703334
Arterial hypertension; blood pressure; cerebrovascular; epidemiology; stroke; vitamin D
4.  Aldosterone and cortisol affect the risk of sudden cardiac death in haemodialysis patients 
European Heart Journal  2012;34(8):578-587.
Background
Sudden cardiac death is common and accounts largely for the excess mortality of patients on maintenance dialysis. It is unknown whether aldosterone and cortisol increase the incidence of sudden cardiac death in dialysis patients.
Methods and results
We analysed data from 1255 diabetic haemodialysis patients participating in the German Diabetes and Dialysis Study (4D Study). Categories of aldosterone and cortisol were determined at baseline and patients were followed for a median of 4 years. By Cox regression analyses, hazard ratios (HRs) were determined for the effect of aldosterone, cortisol, and their combination on sudden death and other adjudicated cardiovascular outcomes. The mean age of the patients was 66 ± 8 years (54% male). Median aldosterone was <15 pg/mL (detection limit) and cortisol 16.8 µg/dL. Patients with aldosterone levels >200 pg/mL had a significantly higher risk of sudden death (HR: 1.69; 95% CI: 1.06–2.69) compared with those with an aldosterone <15 pg/mL. The combined presence of high aldosterone (>200 pg/mL) and high cortisol (>21.1 µg/dL) levels increased the risk of sudden death in striking contrast to patients with low aldosterone (<15 pg/mL) and low cortisol (<13.2 µg/dL) levels (HR: 2.86, 95% CI: 1.32–6.21). Furthermore, all-cause mortality was significantly increased in the patients with high levels of both hormones (HR: 1.62, 95% CI: 1.01–2.62).
Conclusions
The joint presence of high aldosterone and high cortisol levels is strongly associated with sudden cardiac death as well as all-cause mortality in haemodialysed type 2 diabetic patients. Whether a blockade of the mineralocorticoid receptor decreases the risk of sudden death in these patients must be examined in future trials.
doi:10.1093/eurheartj/ehs361
PMCID: PMC3578266  PMID: 23211232
Aldosterone; Cortisol; Sudden cardiac death; Cardiovascular events; Mortality; Kidney disease
5.  Effect of eplerenone on parathyroid hormone levels in patients with primary hyperparathyroidism: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial 
Background
Increasing evidence suggests the bidirectional interplay between parathyroid hormone and aldosterone as an important mechanism behind the increased risk of cardiovascular damage and bone disease observed in primary hyperparathyroidism. Our primary object is to assess the efficacy of the mineralocorticoid receptor-blocker eplerenone to reduce parathyroid hormone secretion in patients with parathyroid hormone excess.
Methods/design
Overall, 110 adult male and female patients with primary hyperparathyroidism will be randomly assigned to eplerenone (25 mg once daily for 4 weeks and 4 weeks with 50 mg once daily after dose titration] or placebo, over eight weeks. Each participant will undergo detailed clinical assessment, including anthropometric evaluation, 24-h ambulatory arterial blood pressure monitoring, echocardiography, kidney function and detailed laboratory determination of biomarkers of bone metabolism and cardiovascular disease.
The study comprises the following exploratory endpoints: mean change from baseline to week eight in (1) parathyroid hormone(1–84) as the primary endpoint and (2) 24-h systolic and diastolic ambulatory blood pressure levels, NT-pro-BNP, biomarkers of bone metabolism, 24-h urinary protein/albumin excretion and echocardiographic parameters reflecting systolic and diastolic function as well as cardiac dimensions, as secondary endpoints.
Discussion
In view of the reciprocal interaction between aldosterone and parathyroid hormone and the potentially ensuing target organ damage, the EPATH trial is designed to determine whether eplerenone, compared to placebo, will effectively impact on parathyroid hormone secretion and improve cardiovascular, renal and bone health in patients with primary hyperparathyroidism.
Trial registration
ISRCTN33941607
doi:10.1186/1472-6823-12-19
PMCID: PMC3515510  PMID: 22974443
Aldosterone; Mineralocorticoid receptor blocker; Hyperparathyroidism
6.  Associations of Sun Exposure with 25-Hydroxyvitamin D and Parathyroid Hormone Levels in a Cohort of Hypertensive Patients: The Graz Endocrine Causes of Hypertension (GECOH) Study 
Sunlight-induced vitamin D, synthesis in the skin is the major source of vitamin D, but data on the relationship of sun-related behaviour with vitamin D and parathyroid hormone (PTH) levels are relatively sparse. We evaluated whether habitual sun exposure is associated with 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25[OH]D) and PTH levels and whether there exist seasonal variations. We examined 111 hypertensive patients in Austria (latitude 47° N). Frequent sunbathing at home and outdoor sports were associated with higher 25(OH)D levels (P < 0.05 for both). Red or blond scalp hair as a child, memory of sunburns, preferring sunbathing, frequent stays on the beach or in open-air pools, and solarium use were associated with lower PTH levels (P < 0.05 for all). Multiple linear regression analyses including age, sex, and body mass index showed that sun exposure score was significantly associated with 25(OH)D (beta coefficient = 0.27; P = 0.004) and by trend with PTH (beta coefficient = −0.16; P = 0.09). These associations were more prominent in summer in which 25(OH)D levels were significantly higher compared to winter. Translation of these findings into recommendations for the prevention and treatment of vitamin D deficiency remains a challenge for the future.
doi:10.1155/2012/732636
PMCID: PMC3296164  PMID: 22518130
7.  Homoarginine, heart failure, and sudden cardiac death in haemodialysis patients 
European Journal of Heart Failure  2011;13(8):852-859.
Aims
Sudden cardiac death (SCD) is a major contributor to the excess mortality of patients on maintenance dialysis. Homoarginine deficiency may lead to decreased nitric oxide availability and endothelial dysfunction. Based on this rationale we assessed whether homoarginine deficiency is a risk factor for SCD in dialysis patients.
Methods and results
This study examined the association of homoarginine with cardiovascular outcomes in 1255 diabetic haemodialysis patients from the German diabetes and dialysis study. During a median of 4 years of follow-up, hazard ratios (HR) (95% CI) for reaching the following pre-specified, adjudicated endpoints were determined: SCD, myocardial infarction, stroke, death due to heart failure, and combined cardiovascular events. There was a strong association of low homoarginine concentrations with the presence of congestive heart failure and left ventricular hypertrophy as well as increased levels of brain natriuretic peptide. Per unit decrease in homoarginine, the risk of SCD increased three-fold (HR 3.1, 95% CI 2.0–4.9), attenuating slightly in multivariate models (HR 2.4; 95% CI 1.5–3.9). Patients in the lowest homoarginine quintile experienced a more than two-fold increased risk of SCD, and more than three-fold increased risk of heart failure death than patients in the highest quintile, which accounted for the high incidence of combined cardiovascular events. Low homoarginine showed a trend towards increased risk of stroke, however, myocardial infarction was not meaningfully affected.
Conclusion
Low homoarginine is a strong risk factor for SCD and death due to heart failure in haemodialysis patients. Further studies are needed to elucidate the underlying mechanisms, offering the potential to develop new interventional strategies.
doi:10.1093/eurjhf/hfr056
PMCID: PMC3143829  PMID: 21791541
Homoarginine; Sudden cardiac death; Heart failure; Amino acids; Haemodialysis
8.  Vitamin D deficiency is associated with sudden cardiac death, combined cardiovascular events, and mortality in haemodialysis patients 
European Heart Journal  2010;31(18):2253-2261.
Aims
Dialysis patients experience an excess mortality, predominantly of sudden cardiac death (SCD). Accumulating evidence suggests a role of vitamin D for myocardial and overall health. This study investigated the impact of vitamin D status on cardiovascular outcomes and fatal infections in haemodialysis patients.
Methods and results
25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] was measured in 1108 diabetic haemodialysis patients who participated in the German Diabetes and Dialysis Study and were followed up for a median of 4 years. By Cox regression analyses, we determined hazard ratios (HR) for pre-specified, adjudicated endpoints according to baseline 25(OH)D levels: SCD (n = 146), myocardial infarction (MI, n = 174), stroke (n = 89), cardiovascular events (CVE, n = 414), death due to heart failure (n = 37), fatal infection (n = 111), and all-cause mortality (n = 545). Patients had a mean age of 66 ± 8 years (54% male) and median 25(OH)D of 39 nmol/L (interquartile range: 28–55). Patients with severe vitamin D deficiency [25(OH)D of≤ 25 nmol/L] had a 3-fold higher risk of SCD compared with those with sufficient 25(OH)D levels >75 nmol/L [HR: 2.99, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.39–6.40]. Furthermore, CVE and all-cause mortality were strongly increased (HR: 1.78, 95% CI: 1.18–2.69, and HR: 1.74, 95% CI: 1.22–2.47, respectively), all persisting in multivariate models. There were borderline non-significant associations with stroke and fatal infection while MI and deaths due to heart failure were not meaningfully affected.
Conclusion
Severe vitamin D deficiency was strongly associated with SCD, CVE, and mortality, and there were borderline associations with stroke and fatal infection. Whether vitamin D supplementation decreases adverse outcomes requires further evaluation.
doi:10.1093/eurheartj/ehq246
PMCID: PMC2938469  PMID: 20688781
Vitamin D; Sudden cardiac death; Mortality; Dialysis; Kidney; Cardiovascular
9.  Graz Endocrine Causes of Hypertension (GECOH) study: a diagnostic accuracy study of aldosterone to active renin ratio in screening for primary aldosteronism 
Background
Primary aldosteronism (PA) affects approximately 5 to 10% of all patients with arterial hypertension and is associated with an excess rate of cardiovascular complications that can be significantly reduced by a targeted treatment. There exists a general consensus that the aldosterone to renin ratio should be used as a screening tool but valid data about the accuracy of the aldosterone to renin ratio in screening for PA are sparse. In the Graz endocrine causes of hypertension (GECOH) study we aim to prospectively evaluate diagnostic procedures for PA.
Methods and design
In this single center, diagnostic accuracy study we will enrol 400 patients that are routinely referred to our tertiary care center for screening for endocrine hypertension. We will determine the aldosterone to active renin ratio (AARR) as a screening test. In addition, all study participants will have a second determination of the AARR and will undergo a saline infusion test (SIT) as a confirmatory test. PA will be diagnosed in patients with at least one AARR of ≥ 5.7 ng/dL/ng/L (including an aldosterone concentration of ≥ 9 ng/dL) who have an aldosterone level of ≥ 10 ng/dL after the saline infusion test. As a primary outcome we will calculate the receiver operating characteristic curve of the AARR in diagnosing PA. Secondary outcomes include the test characteristics of the saline infusion test involving a comparison with 24 hours urine aldosterone levels and the accuracy of the aldosterone to renin activity ratio in diagnosing PA. In addition we will evaluate whether the use of beta-blockers significantly alters the accuracy of the AARR and we will validate our laboratory methods for aldosterone and renin.
Conclusion
Screening for PA with subsequent targeted treatment is of great potential benefit for hypertensive patients. In the GECOH study we will evaluate a standardised procedure for screening and diagnosing of this disease.
doi:10.1186/1472-6823-9-11
PMCID: PMC2671510  PMID: 19351411

Results 1-9 (9)