Point man on pressure

When Dr. Marvin Moser talks about hypertension, it’s in your best interest to listen.

After all, the Scarsdale man knows his topic inside and out, having worked in nearly all aspects of the field – from patient treatment to clinical studies, pilot programs to publications – since the 1940s.

“I got involved in hypertension at a time when nobody paid much attention to it,” he says.

And Moser, who remains a clinical professor of medicine at the Yale University School of Medicine, will be the first to tell you that not much has changed on that front. It really isn’t something that captures the general public’s attention with telethons, walk-a-thons or T-shirt sales.

“It’s a great field, but it’s very boring,” he says with a chuckle.

But that hasn’t stopped him from devoting his life’s work to helping make medical strides in the specialty.

He has published more than 500 scientific papers, written five books for physicians on hypertension and cardiology and has contributed 35 chapters for medical texts. And that’s not to mention all the magazine articles, books and booklets for the general public.

In addition, Moser has lectured around the world and appeared on radio and national television. He’s been a visiting professor from Portugal to South Africa, Ireland to the West Indies, London to Moscow.

His credentials, which could fill pages, also include serving as senior medical consultant to the National High Blood Pressure Education Program of the National Heart, Lung & Blood Institute from 1974 to 2002 and as a director of the hypertension section at Montefiore Hospital in New York City and of hypertensive and vascular diseases at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

Moser’s local ties run deep, as he was a practicing cardiologist in Scarsdale then White Plains from 1953 until 1995 and is emeritus chief of cardiology at White Plains Hospital.

“I would not have stopped practicing had I not had all these other things,” he says.

Moser is long a vocal advocate of patient education, a key element during the early 1970s when he gained national attention through work that grew out of the groundbreaking Westchester Hypertension Project.

“I was able to coordinate these programs all over the country,” he says.

Moser, who grew up outside Newark, N.J., went to Columbia University, then on to medical school at the Long Island College of Medicine and honed his skills in the military.

He has a keen appreciation for the history and progression of hypertension treatments, noting today there are many treatment options. (An elevated blood pressure, generally considered more than 140/90, puts the body at greater risk of stroke and heart and kidney failure).

Untreated, dire complications come into play. The importance of identifying and treating hypertension is not always understood, says Moser, emeritus editor-in-chief of the Journal of Clinical Hypertension who has also served as chairman of several committees of the National Institutes of Health.

“A problem with hypertension is it doesn’t hurt,” he says. “Most people don’t have any symptoms.”

While treatment is readily available, the main cause of hypertension is often not understood, he adds.

Stress is a contributing factor but he adds that “there’s very little evidence that chronic stress is a major cause of high blood pressure.”

Often, the culprit is more diet-related.

“In most people, it’s probably the inability to handle salt as effectively as they would like,” Moser says.

Carrying extra weight is another strain on the body that impacts blood pressure.

But once it’s diagnosed, the treatment is often straightforward, he adds.

“It’s been kept relatively simple compared to a lot of other diseases, but the payoff is phenomenal.”

Today, a doctor might see a patient, prescribe pills to lower blood pressure, make sure the pills are working and then see that patient every six months for monitoring.

“The (success) comes when 10 years from now you say, ‘I haven’t seen a stroke in these people,’” he says.

To reach that point, he notes, there is a need to focus on education and prevention.

Moser continues his dedication, spreading the word through publications such as the new ninth edition of his seminal book, “Clinical Management of Hypertension” and the work of the Hypertension Education Foundation, of which he is president.

He’s still lecturing, often fitting talks into his travel schedule, when he and his wife, Joy, visit their three grown children.

As Moser says, hypertension is “a controllable disease” –
and one that deserves attention.

“Even though you feel fine, you have to keep track of this.”

For more, visit hypertensionfoundation.org.


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