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Lower blood pressure simply by reducing salt intake, study suggests

Posted by on Wednesday, March 27, 2024 in Around the Medical Center, Spring 2024 .

Nearly everyone can lower their blood pressure, even people currently on blood pressure-reducing drugs, by lowering their sodium intake, reports a new study from Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Northwestern Medicine and the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

“In the study, middle-aged to elderly participants reduced their salt intake by about one teaspoon a day compared with their usual diet. The result was a decline in systolic blood pressure by about 6 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg), which is comparable to the effect produced by a commonly utilized first-line medication for high blood pressure,” said Deepak Gupta, MD, MSCI, associate professor of Medicine at VUMC and co-principal investigator.

“We found that 70-75% of all people, regardless of whether they are already on blood pressure medications or not, are likely to see a reduction in their blood pressure if they lower the sodium in their diet,” said co-principal investigator Norrina Allen, PhD, MPH, professor of Preventive Medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

This is one of the largest studies to investigate the effect of reducing sodium in the diet on blood pressure to include people with hypertension and already on medications.

“We previously didn’t know if people already on blood pressure medication could actually lower their blood pressure more by reducing their sodium,” said Allen, also the Quentin D. Young Professor of Health Policy and director of the Center for Epidemiology and Population Health at Northwestern.

The study was published Nov. 11, 2023, in the Journal of the American Medical Association and was simultaneously presented at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions 2023 in Philadelphia.

The total daily sodium intake recommended by the AHA is to be below 1,500 milligrams, and this study was designed to decrease it even lower than that, Allen said. “It can be challenging, but reducing your sodium in any amount will be beneficial,” she said.

High blood pressure is the leading cause of morbidity and mortality in the world. “High blood pressure can lead to heart failure, heart attacks and strokes because it puts extra pressure on your arteries,” Allen said. “It affects the heart’s ability to work effectively and pump blood.”

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