Less Salt Lowers Blood Pressure

Nutritional Stategies for Reducing Hypertension

Reducing salt intake substantially lowers blood pressure in persons with high blood pressure, according to the results of a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health.

The study found that the lowest blood pressure levels were in those eating sodium levels much lower than the currently recommended maximum of 2,400 milligrams a day while also eating the DASH diet. The "DASH" (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet is rich in vegetables, fruit, and low-fat dairy products and low in total and saturated fat.

However, while the combination of following the DASH diet at the lower sodium level reduced blood pressure more than either the DASH diet or lower sodium intake alone, salt reduction was associated with decreased blood pressure in both the DASH diet and a typical American diet - indicating a need for salt reduction regardless of diet.
"The DASH-Sodium study lays to rest the long-standing controversy over whether sodium reduction lowers blood pressure in people who do not have high blood pressure. The study also has important implications for the treatment of hypertension, which affects almost 50 million people in this country," says NHLBI Director Dr. Claude Lenfant.

"These results challenge Americans to eat the DASH diet and reduce sodium consumption," Lenfant continued, as he challenged the food industry to also respond by reducing of sodium levels in processed foods.

According to the American Dietetic Association sodium moderation, along with physical activity, can help control blood pressure control - but these changes don't require a need to sacrifice flavor.  "Taste buds can be re-trained to enjoy other seasonings, it just takes time."

Pepper, garlic and onions are all strong tastes that can enhance many dishes, states the ADA.  Flavored vinegar, oils and fresh or dried herbs also improve taste. Start with small amounts and increase if you like the taste.

Sacks FM, et al.  Effects on Blood Pressure of Reduced Dietary Sodium and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) Diet. N Engl J Med 2001 Jan 4;344(1):3-10