Even patients who already take blood pressure medication can lower theirs further by not adding extra salt to their diet above a certain limit, scientists from a trio of universities found in a new paper.
Consuming one teaspoon less salt per day resulted in a reduction in systolic blood pressure comparable to the effects of medication, proving that prevention often beats cure.
What’s more, the study of American participants is the first to show that people who are already taking blood pressure medications can further reduce the critical figure by reducing their salt intake.
The research was conducted by Northwestern Medicine, Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the University of Alabama.
“We found that 70 to 75 percent of all people, whether or not they are already taking blood pressure medication, are likely to see a reduction in blood pressure if they reduce sodium in their diet,” says Professor Norina Allen. Northwestern University, co-author of the study, who added that they did not know beforehand whether people taking blood pressure medication could lower it further by reducing sodium intake.
The study is one of the largest to examine the effects of reducing dietary salt on blood pressure in people with high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, and already on medication. It was a randomized controlled trial, the gold standard for research, and one that is often difficult to use in nutritional interventions.
Professor Allen said the American Heart Association’s (AHA) recommended total daily sodium intake is less than 1,500 milligrams, and the study was designed to reduce it even lower.
“High blood pressure can lead to heart failure, heart attack and stroke because it puts extra pressure on your arteries. It affects the heart’s ability to work efficiently and pump blood,” said Allen’s colleague Deepak Gupta, associate professor of medicine and director of the Vanderbilt Center for Translational and Clinical Cardiovascular Research.
Adding only table salt to food is a difficult way to produce these results, especially if it is balanced with exercise, and much of the risk associated with high sodium intake comes from the hidden presence of salt in packaged and processed foods.
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Participants in their 50s, 60s, and 70s from Birmingham, Alabama, and Chicago were put on either a high-sodium diet (2,200 mg more than a normal diet per day) or a low-sodium diet (500 mg total per day). ) for one week, after which they switched to the opposite diet for one week.
The day before each study visit, participants wore blood pressure monitors and had their urine collected for 24 hours.
In 213 participants, systolic blood pressure was “significantly reduced” when they ate a low-sodium diet compared to a high-sodium diet.
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“Just as any physical activity is better than no activity for most people, any reduction in sodium from the current normal diet is likely to be better for most people in terms of blood pressure,” says Professor Gupta.
According to the research team, the blood pressure-lowering effect of dietary salt reduction was achieved quickly and safely within a week; A real strength of the research, because it means that people who are interested in lowering their blood pressure can go out and make the consumer choice to do it right away.
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