Your Heart’s Hidden Cause of Hypertension

What Traumas From the Past Do You Still Hold?

by Christiane Northrup, M.D.

Heart Health

One of my Facebook friends was asking me for advice for her sister, who has hypertension (high blood pressure). I didn’t suggest a statin or a blood pressure lowering medication, as the first choice. I explained that, while there are factors like high blood pressure or a stressful lifestyle which contribute to hypertension, sometimes the root cause is deep emotional tension from the past.

Healing Hypertension: Annemarie’s Story

In the Wisdom of Menopause (2012), I write about the experience of my colleague Annemarie Colbin, Ph.D., a pioneer in the whole foods movement and founder of the Natural Gourmet Cooking School in New York City. Annemarie—who has eaten a mostly vegan, organic diet for decades—was diagnosed with hypertension “out of the blue” in the second half of her life.

Annemarie had read about the work of Samuel J. Mann, M.D., professor of Clinical Medicine at the Hypertension Center of the New York Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center. Dr. Mann has seen thousands of patients with high blood pressure over the years. In his book Healing Hypertension: A Revolutionary New Approach (Wiley 1999), he notes that, over the years, he has observed a pattern which doesn’t fit the common view of hypertension as being stress-related. He wrote, “Even patients with severe hypertension did not seem more emotionally distressed than others. If anything, they seemed less distressed.”

It appeared that their high blood pressure was more related to avoiding one’s feelings than to addressing them. Mann came to the conclusion that old, unhealed, repressed traumas were the major culprit in his patients’ high blood pressure. I agree it is our hidden emotions—the ones we don’t feel—that lead to hypertension and many other so-called “unexplained” disorders.

In any case, Annemarie Colbin found herself suddenly grappling with episodes of extreme high blood pressure (sometimes as high as 220/110), along with insomnia. Rather than giving in to the typical treatment, which would mean taking drugs for the rest of her life, she went to see Dr. Mann. She was encouraged to look into any hidden emotions she might be harboring. It didn’t take her long to figure out that her problem stemmed from what I call an “energetic imprint” of trauma from her childhood.

When Annemarie was a child, age 2–5, she spent three years in Hungary during WWII. She lived there with her mother, her father having been forced into a labor camp. She and her mother spent many nights in cellars and basements with 30–40 strangers, hiding from bombs and grenades. She said that she had no memory of this at all. But one day she took a walk and found herself just “waiting.” For what, she didn’t know.

Then she remembered her mother telling her about one of the times they stayed in a basement. Her mother had been summoned upstairs by the occupying soldiers for a party and had to leave her alone in the basement with strangers, none of whom cared about her. She suddenly felt profound terror that her mother might not come back. She said, “I remember knowing that I would die if she did not return. I had no home, no family, no friends, nothing. Just the two of us. I think I must have stayed awake all night waiting for my mother. And now—in my sleepless nights—I was reliving it.”

After this revelation (when walking), Annemarie says, “I lay in the grass, on the safe ground, and shook and cried, feeling and releasing that old terror. After a while of shaking and crying, I calmed down, got up, and went home, feeling strangely relieved. Then I checked my blood pressure. It had gone down to 137/82 in one hour.” Over the next several months as she cleared out additional, old emotional baggage, her blood pressure eventually stabilized at a normal level.

We are living in a time when the light is getting much brighter. And because of this it is much more difficult to hold on to our inner darkness—our old, unhealed pain and terror. Failure to release those old dark emotions, and release them fully, increases our chances for becoming ill—whether that’s high blood pressure or something else. We’ve been taught to be very afraid of our tears, our rage, our grief. But these are NOT the problem. Keeping them bottled up is.

For some of you, just reading this will bring up the emotions that require releasing. Others may need the help of a skilled therapist or bodyworker. Regardless, here is an affirmation to help you release what needs to come up and out—if anything!

Divine Beloved, please change me into someone who can easily release any dark emotions that I may be holding—even if I don’t know about it. Help me to feel and then to release everything that needs to come up. I am safe and all is well.

After you practice this a bit, please leave me a comment here or on my Facebook page and tell me about your experience.

Additional Reading

New Blood Pressure Guidelines: What Do They Mean?

Last Updated: January 31, 2013

Christiane Northrup, M.D.

Christiane Northrup, M.D.

Christiane Northrup, M.D., is a visionary pioneer and a leading authority in the field of women’s health and wellness. Recognizing the unity of body, mind, and spirit, she empowers women to trust their inner wisdom, their connection with Source, and their ability to truly flourish.

Comments

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  1. Rebecca Sorani
    2 years ago

    Dear Dr. Northrup,

    I love your work, but I have a painful question. I wonder if you feed differently about the efficacy of Dr. Mann’s alternative treatment for hypertension knowing that Dr. Colbin died of a brain hemorrhage a couple of years after the episode you relate in this post. As you know, untreated hypertension raises the risk of brain hemorrhages (among other things).

    Thank you,
    Rebecca Sorani

    1. B. Manter
      6 months ago

      Rebecca, your question warrants a response. 2018 and I am curious about Colbin’s etiology for the brain aneurism.

  2. Lori
    6 years ago

    Thank you for this information and this person’s experience. I am familiar with the Natural Gourmet Cooking School–have gone to classes there a few times!

    I have spent time journaling to process emotional trash from the past. It’s amazing what can be buried in us. I do believe this trash can affect our health in myriad ways. We are not taught to FEEL our feelings, and this is so important so we don’t end up with emotional baggage for the rest of our life.

  3. Vimala
    6 years ago

    I have used Bach Flower Remedies for releasing negative emotions easily and effectively. Quite often, when the surface layer of emotions get cleared, older and deeper emotional layers show up. I use the appropriate Bach Flower Remedies again and those get cleared up as well. I have also had good results with Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) also known as Tapping.

  4. Christiane Northrup
    6 years ago

    I can’t thank you enough for having the courage to share your stories here with each other and with me. Just this very act of telling the truth here is freeing. A part of your spirit sighs with relief. And the healing begins. For those of you who are having trouble with meds and with trust–and everything else, I highly recommend taking a webinar on healing with Divine Love. They are very reasonable. Just $25. Please check out http://www.worldserviceinstitute.org

  5. Cynthia
    6 years ago

    Have hypertension bad so am on two bp meds but still have spikes. I DO have much trauma in my past but don’t know who to see about it. All drs want to put me on drugs, which have side effx and have not helped. On medicaid with spinal disability/fibro/cts/arthritis/bone spurs/ migraines/chronic fatigue-they assume depression.But all antideps cause severe anxiety attacks. What dr is best to see about emotional baggage? After years of mis-care, I find it hard to trust anyone.

  6. Cynthia
    6 years ago

    Have hypertension bad so am on two bp meds but still have spikes. I DO have much trauma in my past but don’t know who to see about it. All drs want to put me on drugs, which have side effx and have not helped. On medicaid with spinal disability/fibro/cts/arthritis/bone spurs/ migraines/chronic fatigue-they assume depression.But all antideps cause severe anxiety attacks. What dr is best to see about emotional baggage? After years of mis-care, I find it hard to trust anyone.

  7. Straus S
    6 years ago

    My doctor has been puzzled to why I have HB. She has often stated that she doesn’t know why I have HB. She would say, “it must be genic because your life style and eating habits do not dictate why you have this condition.”‘
    Your story maybe the reason for my condition. I must say that I do not remember much of my past. I am determine to resolve this condition. Thank you for sharing this information.

  8. Maria
    6 years ago

    Thank you very much for this. My BP started rising in my late 30’s and only got under control when I found the inner strength to acknowledge and accept that I am an incest survivor. It still fluctuates a lot depending on how much I allow myself to express my grief, anger, shame (yes, I know it was not my fault, but I still feel it) and pain.

  9. Maria
    6 years ago

    Thank you very much for this. My BP started rising in my late 30’s and it only got under control when I was able to acknowledge to myself and others that I was an incest survivor. It fluctuates as I go through better and worse periods in dealing with this overwhelming painful realization and I now understand better why I need to give myself more often permission to feel and express my grief and pain.

  10. Jan C
    6 years ago

    Thank you Dr for this info. I was dealing with a stressful separation and moving. 2012 brought a GTA, 3 mini strokes, an angina attack with hospitalization as HBP continues. Now take HBP meds without lowering it.

  11. Armanda DelBonis
    6 years ago

    I have been taking hypertension meds for aprox. thirteen years..and…they don’t seem to help. I refuse to allow the Doctors to put me on high amounts!!! Reading this today is, “divine intervention”! 2/7/13

  12. Constance Bergh
    6 years ago

    Your affirmation is very powerful for me, especially the words “even if I don’t know about it.” I’m in a program that has given positive affirmations for homework. I going to add this one to it. Thank you.

  13. Fagan
    6 years ago

    I saw and listened to you today. It was inspiring, motivational, and food for thought! The energy, the humor, the information, the irreverence, the honesty, the common sense etc etc left me wanting more. You play or played the harp, you love dance – me too, I can soar there… But as you mentioned I feel weird at my age going to a tango class, and I hate sabotaging my own dreams by allowing ageism to interfere.
    Anyway good on you Christiane! Go girl!

  14. Florins Falco
    6 years ago

    I also have high blood pressure, diagnosed two years ago at age 73.
    No childhood trauma except for scared black outs during WW II at home in NY.
    Hiding under tables at school in fear of bombs. Could that be it?

  15. Rebecca
    6 years ago

    Hypertension runs in my mother’s family but I have never had it. My sister does and though we had the same childhood, her temperament was very different from mine. She was brave in the face of emotional abuse but apathetic when it came to making sure it didn’t happen again. People knew I forgave but didn’t forget.

  16. Sarah B
    6 years ago

    I love this article. I love hearing about doctors who are encouraging patients to uncover their pent up emotions. Thank you for sharing it. I have know people who could not lower they hypertension with drugs, and who also couldn’t tolerate the drugs for it. Great to know of other natural resources for lowering blood pressure 🙂

  17. Carole
    6 years ago

    Dr. Christine,
    How can a “body worker” help to release emotions? What questions should I ask to find such a therapist?

  18. Anna Penido
    6 years ago

    I have severe regurgitation from my mitral valve and I am a candidate for surgery. I have led an organic diet since my teens, exercising also. I got Louise Hay’s CD’s Self-Healing and have spotted that guilt/punishment besides being very critical of myself could have aggravated the issue. The film ” The Cure” gives so much hope for self-healing. Can you address stem-cell therapy in your program as well? Thanks!

  19. Hanna Hasan
    6 years ago

    I was born in 1940 in Germany. I think I have lived through a lot of horrors that are bottled up
    inside of me. I’ve had high blood pressure for many years and do not like to take medications.
    I am not overweight and have a healthy lifestyle. Thank you for this enlightening article.

  20. Roseann
    6 years ago

    I am fortunte to maintain my health without meds, not even aspirin. I am 66. This does not mean I am without emotional distress. That’s a given for anyone my age. Affirmations are a great way to cut through emotions and this one is powerful. Thank you

  21. Sandy Gallant
    6 years ago

    I was diagnosed with hypertension in 2008, at age 66, and have been on meds ever since. This information struck a chord with me. I have always told myself I would find a way to get off these medications. I was brought up in a alcoholic and violent household, so I am sure there are some emotions that are blocked still. Thank you for the article and the reference to Dr. Mann’s book. I plan to get it and read it.

  22. Catherine UK
    6 years ago

    My BP started rising when my elderly parents moved closer to me so that I could look after them. An unhappy childhood which they are oblivious of (my mother only says “oh that’s all in the past now). I am constantly battling with looking after them / trying to look after myself (nothing I ever do is enough). I has been 5 years and my BP has been rising the whole time – I now take medication, but with side effects and I’d love to get off them but am scared to do so. Feel trapped.

  23. Nancy Van Landingham
    6 years ago

    Hi … Will the dark pain ever go away … I am 70, I am beautiful, I am smart and I am important … (A movie 🙂 … All the work I have done and continue to do to live in my body on this earth is on going … Will the pain and childhood memories ever go away? Good heavens enough already! Thanks for allowing me to post …

  24. Melanie Sharp
    6 years ago

    I appreciate your words of wisdom on this issue and agree that healing old trauma can help improve our health and overall life. I was suffering from symptoms of high blood pressure and along with medication, got therapy to help reveal and heal from past hurts/trauma. The therapy and healing led me to change my career and simplify my life and I will be forever grateful to my beautiful heart for waking me up and showing me the way!

  25. Melanie Sharp
    6 years ago

    As midlife approached for me several years ago, I started waking up in the night with chest pain and my heart racing. I was surprised to find out that my blood pressure was unsafely high. Over the course of a year, I got treatment for the blood pressure and also started therapy to heal old wounds. In the process, I left a l career that I was good at, but that was stressing me out. I am so thankful for my beautiful heart showing me the way to a healthier, happier life!

  26. Lisa
    6 years ago

    I have just started experiencing HT and feeling blocked and different in some way. My heart area is always strained. I am going to follow your protocol and hope that I can rid this feeling. Thank you.

  27. Diane Smith
    6 years ago

    Also have been diagnosed with elev. BP. Past ten years filled with parents dying, old memories and disappointments, pets dying, children having problems, moving, marriage issues, etc. This makes perfect sense but physicians always turn to meds before dealing with emotional issues and if stress is brought up, it’s kind of dismissed. Thank you for reaffirming this as I know once I work through it, everything will balance out in my body.

  28. Kathleen
    6 years ago

    …Thank you so much for this important work. I feel as if you are writing about me. It is comforting to come into the light and out of the shadows.

  29. Ada
    6 years ago

    I have been trying to figure out why I have high blood pressure for
    years and living with Lupus. My Sister died at eight years when I was just four and my Father died when I was twelve. When I saw that your radio show on this subject is on February 27, my Father’s birthday it just hit me that perhaps this may be something that relates to my health problems. I will be sure to listen to your show on Dad’s birthday and thank him as well as you for this message.

  30. Kathleen
    6 years ago

    I’m in the process of reading Dr. Mann’s new book Hypertension and You. It was the first time I heard about a possible cause of high blood pressure being the Sympathetic nervous system. This book is fabulous for a comprehensive look at hypertension.

  31. Teresa Walsh
    6 years ago

    My Mother who is 82 has hypertension, and is on medication. After reading your story about your friend a light went on. My Mother is from Germany and grew up during WWII as a child, and all my life she never spoke of the terrible things she went through. I think what happened to her as a child has also effected her physically and mentally. I am going to let her read your article, and I hope it will help her to release those horrible bottled up memories! Thank you for sharing this!!

  32. Sue T
    6 years ago

    Very interesting indeed, thank you. My BP has just started to be on the high side, so this is very timely for me.

  33. jennifer
    6 years ago

    I’ve been doing Rolfing treatments for over a year now, at various times, partly for chronic tightness and pain, but also for releasing old emotional baggage. I don’t always know what is being released, or why, but I know I feel tons lighter, happier, and more joyful for no reason.

    Having grown up in an alcoholic family, the eldest of eight, I know I have shouldered more than my share of the burdens, more than a young girl could handle.
    Thank you for a very enlightening article,
    Jennifer

  34. Joan Mansson
    6 years ago

    I’ve had mild hypertension for the past 7 years or so. I’ve been doing a lot of self examining spiritual work in preparation for a shift and yesterday I started remembering things I hadn’t really forgotten and a few minor slights that I had. Walking my dog this morning and even now I began to tear up and I really don’t know why but after reading your article I understand the harm that the emotions we hold in our gut can do to our hearts.

  35. Sonia B
    6 years ago

    Thanks so much. I have been holding on to feelings of sadness and anger around relationships that have fallen out for years now. They have been holding me back from making new friendships and probably causing some physical problems that I don’t even know about yet. I am using your affirmation along with tapping to release them now.

  36. Roberta
    6 years ago

    I use a technique called the Emotion Code, it uses muscle testing to find what and when emotions became trapped in the body and then you can gently release them. Anyone can do it for themselves or others.http://www.drbradleynelson.com/free-resources/

  37. Martine
    6 years ago

    Présence de l’Univers, reste présente ? ma peine de ne pouvoir comforter mon amie qui se bat pour avoir la garde de son petit-fils…
    Reste présente ? mon doute d’acheter une maison et de m’installer chez moi…
    Reste présente ? chaque respiration de ma journée. Amen.
    Merci.

  38. katherine Veit
    6 years ago

    I also have hypertension, for years, and have been on meds for years, I’m sure I have many hidden emotions plus emotions that I do know about…aging, depression etc. thank you for this article

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