Welcome to Lab Test Consult

You can log in and post your comments

Share your knowledge and experience!

Member Login
Lost your password?

The truth about salt and high blood pressure

March 25, 2012

One in three adults in the United States has high blood pressure, and less than half have it under control. Salt intake can be a big factor in blood pressure, so today we start a two-part series by looking at who needs to be concerned about salt, and the best way to reduce sodium intake.


Beverly Butler of New Orleans gets her blood pressure checked during an event for Breast Cancer Awareness Month in Boutte.

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a symptomless condition in which the force of the blood flow stretches artery walls beyond their healthy limits. This overstretching creates weak spots, making vessels more prone to rupture. Plus, the heart has to pump even harder when the arteries aren’t as elastic, which can cause damage to the heart itself.

People with chronic high blood pressure are at a much greater risk for heart attack, stroke, congestive heart failure, and kidney failure, but fortunately, high blood pressure can be controlled, and diet plays a key role in prevention and treatment.

The most common recommendation for preventing or treating high blood pressure is to follow a low-sodium diet. But there are mixed messages on just how low you need to go – and how to do it.

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that we limit our sodium intake to less than 2300 milligrams (mg) daily, and to less than 1500 mg for about half of the population (those who are 51 and older, and people of any age who are African American, or have hypertension, diabetes, or kidney disease).

The estimated average daily sodium intake in the United States: about 3400 mg daily. Yowza.

The new guidelines have some people questioning, if so few people are consuming as little as 2300 mg daily, do we all need to be so restrictive?

In a word, no.

“This level of sodium restriction likely is not truly feasible for the majority of Americans to adhere to long term,” says Dr. Brian Cospolich, a cardiologist with the Heart Clinic of Louisiana, who points out that studies have shown a daily sodium intake of 3,000 to 4,000 mg is as helpful in lowering blood pressure in salt-sensitive people as a 2,000 mg sodium restriction.

Many of the clients I work with are training for events like marathons and triathlons, and lose pounds and pounds of salty sweat during a single workout, often with multiple training sessions in a day. Same goes for those who play sports like tennis, soccer, and football, particularly in the summertime heat, so I often have these clients add hundreds of milligrams of sodium through foods, drinks and supplements to help prevent muscle cramping.

“Exercise lowers blood pressure, and improves the blood vessels’ reactivity, plus it has a diuretic effect via sweating,” says Dr. Carl Lavie, medical director of cardiac rehabilitation and prevention at the John Ochsner Heart and Vascular Institute.

“Healthy, normal weight individuals with normal blood pressure who exercise a lot aren’t helping their cause by restricting salt, and by doing so, they can actually cause problems like weakness or fainting,” Lavie says.

For patients with high blood pressure who also exercise regularly and lose large volumes of sweat, Lavie says that he tries to avoid diuretics to treat their hypertension, and he often doesn’t restrict their salt intake as much as he would for the more typical person with hypertension.

And even those who don’t lose large amounts of sweat through regular exercise may not need to be so restrictive with their salt intake. Some people are less salt-sensitive than others, meaning that their blood pressure doesn’t change much in relation to their sodium consumption. While over 50 percent of hypertensive people are estimated to be salt-sensitive, just 30 percent of people without high blood pressure are thought to be sensitive to salt.

“If a person isn’t salt-sensitive, it’s probably less critical for them to follow a very low sodium diet,” Cospolich says.

So far there’s no easy way to test for salt sensitivity, so the general recommendation is to follow a lower-sodium diet.

For those looking to cut back, tightening up our sodium intake goes far beyond putting down the salt shaker. An estimated 77 percent of our sodium intake comes from processed foods and restaurant foods, making it difficult to limit our sodium intake unless we’re preparing most foods at home, from scratch.

Fortunately, it may be getting at least a little easier.

One component of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines calls for a reduction in the sodium content of foods in the marketplace, a recommendation that is supported by the Institute of Medicine’s salt-reducing strategies report that specifically urges food manufacturers and restaurants to reduce the sodium content of their foods.

Some restaurants have already started to make these changes, and most restaurants will accommodate requests of “no salt added” when ordering.

Food makers like Kraft and General Mills also have started to reduce the sodium content of their products, in many cases by as much as 20 percent.

Check the nutrition facts labels on all foods, even those that don’t seem like they’re salty. Some of the surprising sources of sodium include breakfast cereals, salad dressings, muffins, even cottage cheese and graham crackers.

Depending on how much you need to limit your sodium intake, a general recommendation is to try to keep meals under 400 to 600 mg of sodium, and snacks less than 200 to 300 mg of sodium.

And take a closer look at the sodium claims on labels. “Low-salt” or “low-sodium” products contain 140 mg or less per serving, and “very low sodium” products have 35 mg or less per serving. “Reduced-sodium,” however, only means that there’s at least 25 percent less sodium than the original version – which still might be too much.

Aim for more freshly prepared foods, and experiment with herbs, spices, and salt-free seasonings and seasoning blends. Also be aware that sea salt isn’t much lower in sodium than ordinary table salt. One benefit of sea salt is that it has larger granules than table salt, so you can often use less of it. But the sodium content is still about 480 mg per quarter-teaspoon, compared to 580 mg per quarter-teaspoon of regular table salt.

The bottom line: For those who need to cut back on salt, a few small changes can make it easy to slash the salt while keeping the flavor. But limiting sodium intake is just one of several nutritional strategies. 

Article source: http://www.nola.com/health/index.ssf/2012/03/lower_sodium_intake_can_preven.html


Related posts:

  1. Salt-potassium ratio may trump blood pressure for heart disease
  2. Salt's real role in high blood pressure revealed
  3. Excessive salt intake 'doesn't lead to high blood pressure'
  4. Genetic defect disturbs salt handling and pushes up blood pressure levels
  5. Even normal salt intake can cause hypertension in people suffering from sodium dysregulation
  6. Salt in moderation
  7. High Blood Pressure Facebook Question
  8. Potassium may help lower blood pressure
  9. You Docs: What blood pressure numbers are too low/high? do calcium pills cause kidney stones?
  10. What’s Going Around: High Blood Pressure


New post


February 2019
« Aug    


Recent comments

    Contact Sign In

    Email Marketing You Can Trust