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The role of the renin–aldosterone system and the ability of renal sodium reabsorption to facilitate pressure natriuresis were analyzed by using a sufficient number of Japanese patients with essential hypertension.We studied 3222 normal Japanese subjects (610 in Kashiwa City Hospital and 2612 in Shinshu University Hospital), 741 Japanese patients with essential hypertension (256 in Kashiwa City Hospital and 485 in Shinshu University Hospital), 20 patients with aldosterone-producing adenomas and 11 patients with idiopathic hyperaldosteronism to determine the possible roles of sodium, renal function, and plasma aldosterone concentration (PAC) on blood pressure elevation. Inappropriate elevation of aldosterone levels [elevation of the aldosterone: plasma renin activity (PRA) ratio] was used to assess aldosterone action.The peak of the serum sodium distribution curve was approximately 2 mmol/l higher in the patients with essential hypertension than it was in controls. The prevalence of higher serum sodium concentrations (≥ 147 mmol/l) also was increased significantly hypertensive patients. Age-related deterioration of renal function did not explain the hypertension and abnormal sodium metabolism in the hypertensive patients. In stepwise regression analysis, the serum sodium concentration was related inversely to the PRA and positively to the PAC:PRA ratio. Although there was an inverse relationship between urinary sodium excretion (representing sodium intake) and the PRA, urinary sodium excretion proved not to be significant as a source of variation in the PAC or in the PAC:PRA ratio in the hypertensive patients. Although the PAC was within the normal range in patients with serum sodium concentrations of 147 mmol/l or more and an elevated PAC:PRA ratio, it was inappropriately high for the stimulus applied, as indicated by the PRA; this is similar to the situation with aldosterone-producing adenomas or idiopathic hyperaldosteronism.Serum sodium distribution patterns differed between normal subjects and patients with essential hypertension in this Japanese population. The deterioration of renal function and increased sodium intake did not explain this abnormal sodium metabolism. A higher serum sodium concentration is related to an elevated blood pressure, and, in some patients, an inappropriate elevation of plasma aldosterone levels. Of the Japanese hypertensive patients, 10–14% exhibited serum sodium concentrations of 147 mmol/l or more and inappropriate elevations of aldosterone level (suppressed PRA and normal aldosterone level). The defect in these patients presumably lies in the inappropriately high secretion of aldosterone.