High Blood Pressure? Shaking Free from the Salt Habit


As Americans, we consume far too much salt. The average American has 3400 milligrams of salt in their diet, with the recommended daily allowance of 2300 milligrams per day, which is about one teaspoon of salt or the amount of salt in a bowl of soup and a sandwich.

Salt is dangerous to your health, especially if you have high blood pressure. When the sodium (which represents 40% of the salt molecule) level increases in the blood and overwhelms the kidneys’ ability to excrete the excess sodium, then water is retained in the blood stream to dilute the excess sodium. This increases the blood volume and the work of the heart and damage to the blood vessels, resulting in additional fluid around various tissues like the heart, lungs and lower extremities, which produces swelling.

Suggestions for Lowering the Salt in Your Diet

Most nutritionists recommend gradually lowering the salt content in the diet. This is far better than going cold turkey and completely deleting the salt in the diet. By slowly cutting back on the salt in the diet, you give your taste buds a chance to adjust and you will soon find that highly salty food is not as attractive.

Another suggestion is to prepare foods without adding salt, then add a small amount of salt when you are about to consume the food.

When purchasing canned or packaged soups, select products that are labeled low-sodium, and if necessary, add salt at the table. Also, you can add flavors to low sodium products with herbs, peppers, garlic and other salt free seasonings like Ms. Dash salt free seasoning blends. Locally, the famous Paul Prudhomme created salt free (and sugar free) seasonings that make food appear to have a salt taste.

Also, increase the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables as they are naturally low in sodium and high in potassium, which is helpful for lowering your blood pressure.

Finally, when going out for dinner, ask for the entrée without sauces as these contain large amounts of salt. Now, you can add a small amount of sauce, if necessary, or bring your own salt substitute to add to the food.

I have many patients who are hypertensive, and when they significantly reduced their salt intake, they were able to have normal blood pressures (<130\80), and many were able to discontinue the use of antihypertensive medication. Of course, stopping the medication must be done under a physician’s supervision.

Bottom Line: Excessive salt is implicated to adverse consequences for men and women with high blood pressure. Salt restriction is an easy solution to helping to control hypertension. If you do toss out the salt shaker, your heart will thank you.


Dr. Neil Baum is a Professor of Clinical Urology at Tulane Medical School .

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