New research has shown that reducing your salt intake can have a significant impact on lowering blood pressure, even if you are already taking medication for it. The study found that reducing salt intake by just 1 teaspoon per day can lead to a drop in blood pressure similar to that achieved by common blood pressure medications.
High blood pressure poses serious health risks, including cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, vision loss, and sexual dysfunction. Therefore, it is important for individuals with high blood pressure to take steps to bring it down to a normal level.
The study, published in JAMA, involved middle-aged to older adults from Birmingham, Alabama, and Chicago. Participants were randomly assigned to either a high-sodium or low-sodium diet. Those on the high-sodium diet added 2,200 milligrams of salt per day to their usual intake, while those on the low-sodium diet consumed only 500 milligrams per day. After a week, the groups switched diets.
The researchers found that the group on the low-sodium diet experienced a reduction in systolic blood pressure (the top number of the blood pressure reading) of 7 mm Hg to 8 mm Hg compared to the group on the high-sodium diet. Additionally, their blood pressure was 6 mm Hg lower than their usual diet.
The study authors noted that the blood pressure-lowering effect was consistent, with 72% of participants experiencing a reduction in blood pressure when they ate less salt. The intervention also worked quickly, with participants seeing a change within just one week.
Experts recommend a sodium intake of under 2,300 mg per day for the general population and less than 1,500 mg per day for those with high blood pressure or heart disease. Most Americans consume around 3,400 mg of sodium per day, well above the recommended levels. By reducing sodium intake by 2,300 mg per day, individuals can bring their intake closer to the recommended levels.
To reduce salt intake, experts recommend reading labels, opting for low-sodium versions of foods, using spices and herbs liberally, adding vinegar to meals, focusing on whole foods, cooking at home more often, checking nutritional information when eating out, and starting small by focusing on the biggest contributors to sodium intake. Gradually adding low-sodium foods can also help replace higher-sodium options over time.
Overall, reducing salt intake can have a significant impact on blood pressure levels, even for those already taking medication. Simple changes in diet and lifestyle can go a long way in cutting out excess salt and improving overall health.