Eating Salt When You Have High Blood Pressure

Salt (sodium) is essential to our bodies. Normally your kidneys control your level of salt. If you consume too much salt, the kidneys pass it into the urine. But when our salt intake levels are very high, the kidneys might not be able to keep up, and the salt can remain in the body.

Salt attracts water to balance the concentration in the blood. When there is too much salt in the blood, the salt draws more water into the blood. More water increases the volume of blood, which raises blood pressure.

Blood pressure refers to the amount of pressure on the walls of your arteries. Think of a garden hose. When the water is off, there is no pressure on the walls of the hose. When the water is on halfway, there is some pressure on the walls of the hose. When the water is on full the way, there is more pressure on the walls of the hose.

woman salting her meal
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How Blood Pressure Changes

Your body controls the pressure in your arteries using a complex system of regulators including your heart, kidneys, enzymes, hormones, and nervous system.

Your blood pressure is always adjusting, based on your activity level, stress level, time of day, and even the position of your body. Lifestyle factors such as alcohol, caffeine, food, tobacco (smoking), and stress can all change your blood pressure.

There are several categories of high blood pressure:

  • Normal
  • Elevated
  • High blood pressure (hypertension) stage 1
  • Hypertension stage 2
  • Hypertensive crisis

If either of the numbers in your blood pressure measurement is higher than normal, you should work on reducing your blood pressure through lifestyle changes and should seek the care of a physician.

Salt Sensitivity

If you have high blood pressure, you may benefit from reducing your salt intake. Some people are more sensitive to salt than others. For some people, too much salt will cause their blood pressure to rise, and for others, there will not be a substantial change.

About half of people are salt sensitive. African-Americans, the elderly, and people with diabetes are more often salt sensitive.

The Salt Intake Recommendations

You need about 500 milligrams of salt every day. Most people take in about 10 times that amount daily.

The recommended amount of salt for people with high blood pressure is no more than 1500 milligrams a day.

Lowering Your Salt Intake

Processed foods use salt as an additive. Almost 80% of the average person's daily salt intake comes from processed foods.

Eating mainly only natural foods and limiting the use of table salt will reduce the salt in your diet.

Foods to Avoid

Salt can hide in many processed foods. Try to eat mostly produce, fruits and fresh meat. Avoid condiments, pickles, ham, bacon, salsa, cheese, cold cuts, olives, broths, anything canned, and anything processed.

You need to check the sodium content on food labels and think twice about anything with over 100 mg per serving.

7 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  4. Iqbal AM, Jamal SF. Essential Hypertension. In: StatPearls [Internet].

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  6. Farquhar WB, Edwards DG, Jurkovitz CT, Weintraub WS. Dietary sodium and health: more than just blood pressure. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2015;65(10):1042–1050. doi:10.1016/j.jacc.2014.12.039

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By Mark Stibich, PhD
Mark Stibich, PhD, FIDSA, is a behavior change expert with experience helping individuals make lasting lifestyle improvements.