New research indicates the role of excess salt intake in high blood pressure may be related to adrenaline, which constricts arteries.

For years, people with high blood pressure have been told to avoid eating too much salt under the theory that it increases the volume of the blood and thus the pressure on the blood vessel walls. But the new data suggests salt stimulates the sympathetic nervous system to produce adrenalin — and that it’s actually adrenaline that constricts arteries and in turn causes high blood pressure.

Doctors even believe this nervous system involvement in hypertension could be severe enough to cause kidney failure, which is often treated with fluid-decreasing diuretics.

In their review in the Journal of Hypertension, Irene and Haralambos Gavras at the Boston University School of Medicine believe researchers should begin focusing their studies on the nervous system when developing hypertension treatments.

“The purpose of this paper is to correct an erroneous concept that has prevailed for many years, even though scientific evidence has mounted against it,” said Dr. Irene Gavras, adding, “The implication of our findings shows that the optimal treatment for hypertension, for cases associated with renal failure, should not only include diuretics but also the use of drugs that block the central sympathetic nervous system.”