Reducing salt intake can result in a reduction in blood pressure in high blood pressure (hypertension), which is comparable to the effect of medication. Additional reductions in blood pressure can be expected in those already taking blood pressure medication.
A recent study showed that just one week of reduced dietary sodium intake can significantly reduce blood pressure in middle-aged to older people. The study results are published in the specialist magazine “JAMA”.
High blood pressure and salt intake
High blood pressure is the leading cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide and “can lead to heart failure, heart attacks and strokes because it puts additional strain on the arteries,” explains Professor Norrina Allen from Northwestern University (USA).
Excessive sodium or salt intake is considered a potential risk factor for high blood pressure and, conversely, a reduction in sodium intake is said to have positive effects on blood pressure.
What does salt reduction do?
The team, with the participation of researchers from Northwestern University, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, the National Institutes of Health and various other institutions, has now investigated what effects can actually be achieved in middle-aged to older people by reducing salt.
A total of 213 people aged 50 to 75 were included in the study. Around a quarter of them had normal blood pressure, 20 percent had controlled hypertension, 31 percent suffered from uncontrolled hypertension and 25 percent had previously untreated hypertension, the team reports.
Participants were randomly assigned to receive either a high-sodium diet (2,200 milligrams per day in addition to their usual diet) or a low-sodium diet (500 milligrams per day total) for one week and then switched to the other diet for one week.
Blood pressure significantly reduced
The accompanying blood pressure measurements showed that the systolic blood pressure could be reduced in 72 percent of the participants through the low-sodium diet. The blood pressure-lowering effect of sodium reduction was achieved quickly and safely within a week, the research team said.
“In the study, participants reduced their salt intake by about one teaspoon per day compared to their usual diet. The result was a reduction in systolic blood pressure by around 6 mm Hg, which is comparable to the effect of a first-line drug for the treatment of high blood pressure,” emphasizes Professor Dr. Deepak Gupta from Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
The effect of sodium reduction on blood pressure was also found to be the same in almost all people, including those with normal blood pressure, high blood pressure, treated blood pressure and untreated blood pressure.
“We found that 70 to 75 percent of people, whether or not they are already taking medication for high blood pressure, are likely to experience a reduction in their blood pressure if they reduce the amount of sodium in their diet,” concludes Professor Allen.
Just as any physical activity is better than none at all for most people, when it comes to blood pressure, any sodium reduction from the usual diet is probably better than none at all for most people. (fp)