Even patients who are already on blood pressure medication can lower their more, without adding additional salt above a certain limit to their food, scientists from a trio of universities found in a new paper.
The consumption of one less spoon of salt per day resulted in a decrease in systolic blood pressure comparable to the effect obtained with medication, proving that prevention often beats a cure.
In addition, the study of American participants is the first to show that people who are already on blood pressure drugs could further lower the crucial reading by reducing salt consumption.
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, regardless of whether they are already on blood pressure medication or not, are likely to see a reduction in their blood pressure if they decrease sodium in the their diet,” said Professor Norrina Allen of Northwestern University, a co-principal investigator on the study who added that they did not know in advance whether people already on blood pressure medication could lower it further by reducing the sodium intake.
The study is one of the largest to investigate the effect of reducing salt in the diet on blood pressure to include people with high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, and already on medication . It was a randomized controlled trial, the gold standard of research, and one that is often difficult to use in dietary interventions.
Professor Allen said that the total daily sodium intake recommended by the American Heart Association (AHA) is less than 1,500 milligrams, and the study was designed to decrease even lower than that.
“High blood pressure can lead to heart failure, heart attacks and strokes because it puts extra pressure on your arteries. It affects the ability of the heart to work effectively and pump blood,” said the colleague of Allen Deepak Gupta, associate professor of medicine and director of the Vanderbilt Clinical and Translational Cardiovascular Research Center.
Just putting table salt on your food is a difficult way to create these results, especially if it is balanced by exercise, and most of the risk associated with high sodium intake comes from 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 a high-sodium diet (2,200 mg per day in addition to their usual diet) or a low-sodium diet (500 mg total per day). ) for a week, after which they crossed over to the opposite diet for a week.
The day before each study visit, participants wore blood pressure monitors and collected their urine for 24 hours.
Among the 213 participants, systolic blood pressure was “significantly reduced” when they were on the low sodium diet compared to the high sodium diet.
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“Just as any physical activity is better than none for most people, any reduction in sodium from the current habitual diet is probably better than none for most people in terms of blood pressure,” said Professor Gupta .
The blood pressure-lowering effect of reducing dietary salt was achieved quickly and safely within a week, according to the research team; a real strength of the study because it means that people interested in lowering their blood pressure can go out and make consumer choices to do so immediately.
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