For years, the public health nutrition field has warned Americans about the risks associated with a high-sodium diet. When the crux of the conversation focuses exclusively on sodium reduction, though, it overlooks a crucial part of the puzzle -- the ratio of sodium to potassium in our diets.
There is very much a place for the mind/body connection in understanding and treating hypertension. But it is not the cause of hypertension in the 85 percent of patients with ordinary hypertension; and the anger, anxiety and stress we experience are not at the heart of it.
My observations and studies indicate that the mind/body link in hypertension is nearly the opposite of what most suspect. Yes, our anger and anxiety and stress can raise our blood pressure in the moment, but this does not lead to development of persisting hypertension.
Blood pressure is best treated holistically. Severe or poorly-managed stress could be the reason for it, and if so, blood pressure is merely a sign of the underlying condition. Always best to look for causes -- and treat as close to them as possible.
If day-to-day stress and anger and anxiety are not causes of hypertension, do I believe that there is a mind/body connection in hypertension? Yes, I absolutely do. But the connection is very different from what most people think.
The frustration over this nation's inability to control blood pressure in so many people is that this is a problem with very good solutions, tested and proven over half a century. We can and must do better.
An exciting and promising new procedure, which can help lower blood pressure in patients with resistant hypertension (hypertension not controlled by medication), is currently under study in 90 medical centers, including ours, throughout the U.S.
As a hypertension specialist, I advocate healthy diet, reduction of sodium intake, and exercise, as a means to avoid or reduce medication. However, most people end up requiring medication, which is helping millions live a longer and healthier life.