Does Salt in the Diet Cause High Blood Pressure?
Learn why you need to watch your salt intake to lower blood pressure
Virtually every doctor alive will tell you that if you want to lower your blood pressure, you need to limit the amount of salt you consume—and I’m no exception. That’s because salt promotes water retention, and excess water in the body drives up blood pressure readings.
How much should you cut back? More than you probably think. The average adult consumes the equivalent of nearly two teaspoons of salt a day. That’s practically two times the upper limit for good health!
Tips for Using Salt and Keeping Blood Pressure Low
Here are some things you need to know about salt consumption as you strive to lower your blood pressure:
- Don’t go cold turkey and eliminate all salt. Your body requires sodium (a component of salt) to regulate fluid balance and distribution, as well as nerve and muscle cell function. Although you need some sodium, the standard diet includes way too much.
- Aim for less than 1,500 mg of sodium a day. The current recommendation for salt consumption is less than 2,400 mg a day, which amounts to about one teaspoon of salt. But research suggests that people ingesting less than 1,500 mg of sodium a day are better able to keep their blood pressure low. If you have high blood pressure, you should definitely aim for that kind of level. Two important tips: Don’t use salt from a shaker, and read labels to add up the amount of salt you’re taking in. The majority of the excess salt we eat is hidden in processed foods, such as canned spaghetti sauces, soups, and sauerkraut. For a full run-down, check out my list of salt-heavy foods.
- Keep the proper sodium-potassium balance in mind. Sodium and potassium are essential for numerous biochemical processes in the body. However, whereas sodium increases water retention and drives up blood pressure, potassium helps keep blood vessels relaxed and blood pressure low. For optimum health, you should consume sodium and potassium in a specific ratio. Strive to consume more potassium than sodium, with 3 grams of potassium your minimum daily goal. Learn more about the proper sodium-potassium balance.
- Avoid fast food. Many fast food menu items are high in salt, so you can easily exceed the recommended level with just one serving. For example, a flame-broiled chicken sandwich at a fast food restaurant can contain 1,200–1,400 mg of sodium.
- Make up for the reduced salt in your diet by cooking with fresh herbs and spices. Basil, garlic, oregano, rosemary, chives, parsley, and onion are great sources of flavor, and all of them contain natural substances that are good for your health. Learn more about the four heart-healthy seasonings that I recommend to help lower blood pressure.
WATCH: The High Risk of Eating Processed Salt When You Have High Blood Pressure
More Dr. Sinatra Advice on Diet and Blood Pressure
What is the best high blood pressure diet? Learn how you can lower your high blood pressure by switching to the Pan-Asian Mediterranean (PAM) diet.
Which specific foods can help lower blood pressure? Discover the foods that will improve your blood pressure reading the most.
Does excess sugar cause high blood pressure? Get the details on how a high-sugar diet can raise your blood pressure reading.
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Meet Dr. Sinatra
Dr. Stephen Sinatra is a highly respected and sought-after cardiologist and nutritionist with more than 30 years of clinical practice, research, and study. His integrative approach to heart health focuses on reducing inflammation in the body and maximizing the heart's ability to produce and use energy. More About Dr. Sinatra
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