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Logical Issues With the Pressure Natriuresis Theory of Chronic Hypertension.


The term "abnormal pressure natriuresis" refers to a subnormal effect of a given level of blood pressure (BP) on sodium excretion. It is widely believed that abnormal pressure natriuresis causes an initial increase in BP to be sustained. We refer to this view as the "pressure natriuresis theory of chronic hypertension." The proponents of the theory contend that all forms of chronic hypertension are sustained by abnormal pressure natriuresis, irrespective of how hypertension is initiated. This theory would appear to follow from "the three laws of long-term arterial pressure regulation" stated by Guyton and Coleman more than 3 decades ago. These "laws" articulate the concept that for a given level of salt intake, the relationship between arterial pressure and sodium excretion determines the chronic level of BP. Here, we review and examine the recent assertion by Beard that these "laws" of long-term BP control amount to nothing more than a series of tautologies. Our analysis supports Beard's assertion, and also indicates that contemporary investigators often use tautological reasoning in support of the pressure natriuresis theory of chronic hypertension. Although the theory itself is not a tautology, it does not appear to be testable because it holds that abnormal pressure natriuresis causes salt-induced hypertension to be sustained through abnormal increases in cardiac output that are too small to be detected.

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