Following Salt Restrictions for Hypertension

If you have hypertension, or high blood pressure, your doctor 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 while others eating that same diet could have 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, and the causes underlying salt sensitivity are various - ranging from genetic to environmental. Recent 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 for people with hypertension to help achieve adequate blood pressure control, but even those without hypertension should monitor their sodium intake. The latest U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend the following sodium intake limits: 1,200 mg/day for ages 1 through 3; 1,500 mg/day for ages 4 through 8; 1,800 mg/day for ages 9 through 13; and 2,300 mg/day for all other age groups.

Average intakes of sodium are high across the U.S.  - with most sodium consumed in the United States comes from salt added during commercial food processing and preparation, including foods prepared at restaurants. To combat this, the guidelines recommend taking care to consider sodium levels in all food groups to help inform healthy choices. 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 tends to be extremely high in sodium
  • If you cannot avoid processed foods, make sure to at least opt for the low-sodium versions whenever available

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 - which can pay major dividends in your overall quality of life.

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Article Sources
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  1. Harvard Health Publishing. Salt Sensitivity: Sorting out the science. Harvard Medical School. Published August 1, 2019.

  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. December 2020.

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