Excessive salt consumption is common in the diets of middle-aged and older adults in the United States, and experts believe this has led to an increase in mortality over the past ten years. A low-sodium diet lowered blood pressure in almost three out of four participants in a recent study involving 213 individuals, as opposed to a high-sodium diet. Researchers found that the drop in blood pressure they saw was unrelated to the presence of hypertension or the use of blood pressure medications. The anti-hypertensive effect of the low-sodium diet was equivalent to that of a commonly used blood pressure medication. The American Heart Organization reports that nine out of ten Americans eat too much sodium. older and middle-aged U.S. S. Adults consume more sodium on average—3.5 g on average—than the World Health Organization’s recommended threshold for sodium reduction. Even in people with normal blood pressure, high-salt diets are frequently linked to increases in blood pressure and the risk of cardiovascular death.
“For the general population, it is recommended to have a sodium intake of under 2300mg per day,” said cardiologist Dr. Bradley Serwer, chief medical officer at cardiovascular and anesthesiology services provider VitalSolution, in an interview with Medical News Today. We advise against taking more than 1500 mg daily if you have high blood pressure or heart disease. To put this in perspective, there are roughly 2,300 mg of sodium in one tablespoon of salt. But differing blood pressure reactions to sodium consumption have cast doubt on dietary sodium recommendations. Additionally, little research has been done to date on how eating sodium affects blood pressure in individuals using blood pressure medications. According to a cutting-edge study supported by Vanderbilt University Medical Center, a low-sodium diet can lower blood pressure just as much as a prescription medication. This work was done in collaboration with researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and Northwestern University. The term “salt sensitivity of blood pressure” (SSBP) describes variations in blood pressure correlated with variations in salt consumption. Naturally, blood pressure varies to keep the balance of sodium in the blood. Hormone imbalances governing sodium excretion and retention may contribute to susceptibility to SSBP. Although it is unclear how precisely sodium affects blood pressure, vascular dysregulation may also be to blame.
Michelle Routhenstein, a preventative cardiology dietitian at EntirelyNourished.com, who was not involved in the research, spoke with Medical News Today about this study. According to preliminary research, eating too much salt may lead to inflammation, which in turn can elevate blood pressure. “The first line of treatment for high blood pressure is always dietary restriction. Dr. Serwer clarified, “We start medication if someone is unable to achieve normal blood pressure with a low sodium diet.”. In this study, blood pressure responses to dietary sodium were examined within individuals, the blood pressure differences between those assigned to a high- or low-sodium diet initially, and whether these differences were related to baseline blood pressure and the use of antihypertensive medications. 213 community-based participants were enrolled in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA)–SSBP study between April 2021 and February 2023. The age range of the participants was 50 to 75. Of the 213 participants, 25% had normal blood pressure (normotension), 20% had hypertension under control, 31% had hypertension uncontrolled, and 25% had hypertension untreated.
The average age of those who finished both diets was sixty-one. Sixty-four percent of the group were Black, and sixty-five percent were female. Individuals who were ineligible for high- or low-sodium diets or who had resistant hypertension were not included. Two groups were randomly assigned to the participants. For one week, the groups were assigned to either a high sodium diet, which involved adding 2,200 mg of sodium to their usual diet, or a low sodium diet, which involved adding 500 mg of sodium. After that, they alternated diets for a week. Systolic blood pressure decreased after a week-long low-sodium diet, which was similar to the typical effect of 12.5 mg of the prescription hypertension medication hydrochlorothiazide. In total, 71.7% of people reported lower blood pressure after adopting a low-sodium diet. Norrina Allen, Ph.D., Dr. C. , of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, informed MNT that “This effect was consistent whether or not the patient was taking antihypertensive medicine.”. In contrast to 92.9 percent of those who consumed a high-sodium diet, only 8% of study participants reported any mild adverse events after this regimen. Furthermore, neither the individual nor the between-group changes were dependent on the use of blood pressure medications or the presence of hypertension. Additionally, the drops in blood pressure were similar amongst the subgroups.
The authors of the study think that by supplementing everyone’s usual diet with dietary sodium, they were able to capture realistic variations in sodium intake. It exceeded the sodium consumption of typical diets, unlike the diets used in the DASH-Sodium and GenSalt studies. The study’s utilization of a 24-hour urine sodium excretion, the gold standard technique for assessing sodium intake in population surveys, is one of its most notable strengths. Additionally, a larger range of people were included in the study to evaluate the impact of dietary sodium on blood pressure, including those with normal blood pressure, high blood pressure, treated or untreated, and appropriately managed or not, according to Routhenstein. Nevertheless, the researchers were unable to rule out the possibility of nonsodium dietary factors because the diets were not completely controlled. Thankfully, reducing salt intake doesn’t have to be difficult. According to Dr. Allen, the low-sodium diet consisted of items found in typical grocery stores. Reading food and beverage labels is highly advised. A lot of patients don’t know how much sodium is in some foods and beverages. Fast food, highly processed meals, canned vegetables, and even the food in fine dining establishments are frequently very high in sodium, Dr. Serwer warned. Everybody was urged by the cardiologist to cook at home whenever possible since they could manage the quantity of ingredients.
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