If you have high blood pressure or high blood pressure, your healthcare provider will almost certainly recommend that you reduce the amount of salt (sodium chloride) in your diet.
A low-salt diet can play an important role in lowering blood pressure — a major preventable risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
Some people can eat a very high sodium diet without any meaningful change in blood pressure levels. Eating the same diet in others may lead to high blood pressure.
The latter group was said to be “salt-sensitive,” meaning that if they switched from a low-sodium diet to a high-sodium diet, their blood pressure increased by 5 percent or more.
There is no simple test to determine who is salt-sensitive and who is not. Additionally, salt sensitivity has many causes, ranging from genetics to the environment.
Evidence published by the American Heart Association shows that people who are salt-sensitive are at least 40 percent more likely to develop high blood pressure than those who are moderately sensitive.
Salt Limit Recommendations
A low-sodium diet is often recommended for people with high blood pressure to help achieve adequate blood pressure control, but sodium intake should be monitored even in people without high blood pressure.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend the following sodium intake limits:
- 1 to 3 years: 1,200 milligrams (mg)/day
- 4 to 8 years: 1,500 mg/day
- 9 to 13 years: 1,800 mg/day
- 14 years and older: 2,300 mg/day
In the United States, the average intake of sodium is high. Most of the sodium consumed comes from salt added during commercial food processing and preparation, including food prepared in restaurants.
To address this, guidelines recommend paying attention to sodium levels in all food groups.
Strategies to reduce sodium intake include cooking at home more often; using the Nutrition Facts label to choose products such as low-sodium, low-sodium, or no added salt; and seasoning foods with herbs and spices instead of salt.
Other practical tips for reducing your total sodium intake include:
- No salt shaker on the table
- avoid cooking with salt
- Read condiment labels carefully, as these tend to be very high in sodium
- If you can’t avoid processed foods (eg, low-sodium canned soup), choose a low-sodium version
Not only is dietary sodium restriction a key strategy for managing high blood pressure, it also helps enhance your overall cardiovascular health. This can have major benefits for your overall quality of life.