AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) — Untreated hypertension, or extremely high blood pressure, can be fatal. It can lead to heart attack, stroke and kidney disease. Dr. Mykola Mamenko, a physiologist at the Medical College of Georgia, is researching how people become hypertensive. He has received a $1.9 million grant from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases to learn how the causes differ for men and women.

“We need to identify the groups of people that have some common traits or reasons behind their hypertension and then treat them selectively so you don’t go to the doctor and just keep trying until something works, but you are able to do some blood tests or other types of analysis and receive a therapy that’s going to be effective,” Mamenko explained.

Based on his research with rat models, Mamenko has identified different hormones in men and women which raise blood pressure. In women, that hormone is aldosterone, which regulates salt and water in the body. Meanwhile in men, angiotensin II affects blood pressure.

Mamenko hopes to use this data to help physicians determine which medication should be prescribed to each patient. He explains that many prescribing the correct hypertension medication is often trial and error, which could lead some patients to stop taking their medication. If a patient is prescribed the correct medication early, Mamenko is hopeful more people can be treated before their health declines.

“We don’t really feel hypertension, so if it goes untreated, it could result in cardiovascular, renal or kidney diseases. The consequences are dire, so it’s very important to treat it.”