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Laffer named director of Hypertension Service

Jan. 17, 2013, 9:30 AM

Cheryl Laffer, M.D., Ph.D., professor of Medicine, is the new director of the Hypertension Service within the Division of Clinical Pharmacology.

Cheryl Laffer, M.D., Ph.D.

Laffer came to Vanderbilt in October from Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine, where she was co-section chief of hypertension and vascular medicine.

Laffer’s clinical interests include treatment-resistant hypertension, salt-sensitive hypertension, hypertensive heart disease, renal artery stenosis, hyperaldosteronism, white-coat hypertension (elevated blood pressure in the doctor’s office but normal otherwise) and cardiovascular risk reduction. Her primary research interest is salt sensitivity and blood pressure.

“Cheryl is a thoughtful hypertension specialist who has contributed significantly to our understanding of salt-sensitive hypertension and insulin resistance,” said Nancy Brown, M.D., chair of the Department of Medicine.

Fifty percent of people with high blood pressure will see their blood pressure rise after consuming a lot of salt. More than 80 percent of African-Americans with high blood pressure have salt sensitivity, Laffer said.

In some people, sodium increases blood pressure because it holds excess fluid in the body, placing an added burden on the heart, according to the American Heart Association (AHA).

Excessive salt intake, more than four grams of NaCl per day, can directly raise blood pressure by 10 points on a temporary basis. According to the AHA, a blood pressure reading of 120/80 Hg or above may lead a physician to recommend a low-salt diet or avoiding salt altogether.

“Salt sensitivity itself is an independent risk factor for cardiovascular morbidity and mortality even if someone doesn’t have high blood pressure,” Laffer said.

As director of the Hypertension Service, Laffer sees patients in clinic along with Brown, Matt Luther, M.D., Fernando Elijovich, M.D., who also comes to Vanderbilt from Texas A&M, and Tiffany Latham, DNP, ANP-BC. John Nadeau, M.D., sees patients at the VA Medical Center. The service also provides consultation to all inpatient services with the added help of endocrinologist Vipul Lakhani, M.D.

“We’ll often get referrals from primary care providers who have patients who have treatment-resistant hypertension. This means someone who’s tried three or more medications and still can’t get their blood pressure under control. If they reach that point, they should come and see us in clinic,” she said.

For a clinic appointment or inpatient consultation, call 322-3353.

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