High Blood Pressure Remedy
My blood pressure is sometimes elevated. My family says I put too much salt on my food. Do I really need to cut back? —J.K., Plymouth, Michigan
In the past, there has been debate as to whether or not salt affects blood pressure. However, some studies have indicated that anywhere from 26% to 42% of normal individuals are "salt sensitive," meaning that salt intake can cause their blood pressure to rise.
The National Academies' Institute of Medicine has recently released new Dietary Reference Intakes for salt. It recommends that we should consume no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day (down from the previously recommended 2,400 milligrams). That 1,500 milligrams equals about 2/3 teaspoon of salt.
Quite honestly, it is difficult not to get that much. Salt is an acquired taste—the more we use, the more we seem to want. Besides what we sprinkle on food from the salt shaker, processed foods contain an incredible amount of sodium.
Cheese, pasta sauce, lunchmeat, instant oatmeal, salad dressing, frozen dinners, canned vegetables, seasoned bread crumbs, etc., all have hundreds of milligrams (or more) of sodium per serving. The best way to significantly reduce your sodium intake is to eat only fresh unprocessed foods.
Studies indicate that older people, African-Americans and those who already have high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney conditions tend to be more salt sensitive than others. However, there is no good test to indicate who is salt sensitive and who is not.
It makes sense for anyone whose blood pressure is elevated to reduce their sodium intake. Too much sodium doesn't benefit anyone…and reducing it could help a significant number of people.