1. The epidemiological characteristics of plasma renin activity (PRA) were established in 1999 members of occupational groups in North and West London.
2. The main finding was that PRA was inversely associated with systolic blood pressure in men, the percentage fall in PRA (on a log scale) being 8.4% for each increase of one standard deviation in systolic blood pressure. There was a less obvious inverse relationship in women.
3. However, blood pressure accounted for less than 1% of the variance in PRA.
4. Mean PRA in both smokers and ex-smokers was about 20% higher than in non-smokers.
5. PRA fell with increasing age, was lower in women than in men and considerably lower in blacks (of either sex) than whites.
6. PRA was lower in the first quarter of the menstrual cycle than in the rest of the cycle.
7. Haemoglobin, blood cholesterol, leucocyte count and Factor VIII were positively correlated with PRA.
8. PRA was lower in men with diagnosed hypertension than in those without; there was no significant difference in the women.
9. PRA was lower in those who had had myocardial infarcts in the past than in those who had not.
10. The data as a whole suggest that it may be low, not high, levels of PRA which are associated with increased risks of cardiovascular disease in which hypertension is a predisposing factor.
11. The explanation may be a homoeostatic fall in PRA in response to a rise in blood pressure rather than a major causal role for PRA in the pathogenesis of essential hypertension and target-organ damage.