TOLEDO (WTOL) - While heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, there’s a potential breakthrough at UTMC that could help.

Researchers are working on a way for people to keep blood pressure under control, without having to exercise.

Dr. Bina Joe is a distinguished university professor and chair of UT’s Department of Physiology and Pharmacology and director of the Center for Hypertension and Precision Medicine.

“Sixty-four percent of Ohioans, adults in Ohio, are hypertensive,” Dr. Joe said.

She adds that hypertension is the No. 1 risk for heart disease.

Salt can cause hypertension, and knowing that, Dr. Joe and her team at UTMC dove deeper into the reasons why.

“Eating salt impacts your liver and by that process it impacts your kidneys and damages your kidneys to the extent of altering your blood pressure,” she said.

Dr. Joe said salt it reduces the body’s supply of beta hydroxybutyrate, a chemical produced predominantly by the liver.

So theoretically, hypertensive patients can just drink that chemical, instead of exercising, and bring their blood pressure down.

“It almost sounds like we’re telling people not to exercise. That’s not the point here,” Dr. Joe said.

She and her team say the point is helping people who may not be able to exercise.

“It’s the silent killer. If we can control that, it will be a huge help to the patients. Especially the heart failure,” said Saroj Chakraborty. a fourth-year PhD student

The researchers still have a lot of work to do before testing the chemical on humans, but that could be coming in the next few years.

Researchers are looking for people with both normal and high blood pressure to participate in a study before clinical trials can begin. If you’re interested, call 419-383-5174.