Following Salt Restrictions for Hypertension

If you have hypertension, or high blood pressure, your healthcare provider will almost certainly recommend you reduce the amount of salt (sodium chloride) consumed in your diet.

A low-salt diet can play an important role in reducing your blood pressure—a leading preventable risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

Medical professional measuring blood pressure in a patient
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Salt Sensitivity

Some people can eat a diet very high in sodium without any meaningful change in blood pressure levels. Others eating that same diet may end up with high blood pressure.

The latter group are said to have "salt sensitivity," meaning their blood pressure increases by five points or more if they switch from a low-sodium to a high-sodium diet.

There is no easy test to determine who is and is not salt sensitive. Furthermore, the causes underlying salt sensitivity are numerous, ranging from genetic to environmental.

Evidence published by the American Heart Association suggests that people with salt sensitivity are at least 40% more likely to develop high blood pressure than those with moderate sensitivity.

Recommendations on Salt Restriction

A low-sodium diet is generally recommended for people with hypertension to help achieve adequate blood pressure control, but even those without high blood pressure should monitor their sodium intake.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend the following sodium intake limits:

  • Ages 1 through 3: 1,200 milligrams (mg)/day
  • Ages 4 through 8: 1,500 mg/day
  • Ages 9 through 13: 1,800 mg/day
  • Ages 14 and over: 2,300 mg/day

Average intakes of sodium are high across the U.S.  Most sodium consumed comes from salt added during commercial food processing and preparation, including foods prepared at restaurants.

To combat this, the guidelines recommend being mindful of sodium levels in all food groups.

Strategies to lower sodium intake include cooking at home more often; using the Nutrition Facts label to select products with less sodium, reduced sodium, or no-salt-added, etc.; and flavoring foods with herbs and spices instead of salt.

Other practical tips for reducing overall sodium intake include:

  • Not having a salt shaker on the table
  • Avoid cooking with salt
  • Carefully reading condiment labels, as these tend to be extremely high in sodium
  • Opting for low-sodium versions if you cannot avoid processed foods (e.g., low-sodium canned soup)

A Word From Verywell

Restricting dietary sodium is not only a key strategy in controlling hypertension, the practice can also help to enhance your overall cardiovascular health. This can pay major dividends in your overall quality of life.

3 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.
  1. Harvard Health Publishing. Salt Sensitivity: Sorting out the science. Harvard Medical School.

  2. He J, Huang JF, Li C, Chen J, et al. Sodium Sensitivity, Sodium Resistance, and Incidence of Hypertension: A Longitudinal Follow-Up Study of Dietary Sodium Intervention. Hypertension. 2021 Apr 26:HYPERTENSIONAHA12016758. doi: 10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.120.16758.

  3. U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th Edition.

Additional Reading

By Richard N. Fogoros, MD
Richard N. Fogoros, MD, is a retired professor of medicine and board-certified in internal medicine, clinical cardiology, and clinical electrophysiology.