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Aug 11, 2015

High Salt Intake Linked to Greater Risk for High Blood Pressure

High salt intake increases chances of developing high blood pressure by 25%, says study.

High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart attack and stroke, affecting 1 in 3 adults in the United States. Studies show that consuming too much salt raises blood pressure, contributing to increased risk for hypertension. That’s why current U.S. guidelines recommend limiting sodium intake to no more than 2,300 mg a day, or even less for individuals at increased risk for high blood pressure. But just how much does high salt intake increase risk for hypertension over time?

To learn more, researchers tested the sodium levels of more than 4,500 Japanese adults during their annual health checkup. Investigators then followed participants for 3 years, tracking sodium intake and blood pressure levels. The results were recently published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

On average, study participants consumed 4,200 mg/day of sodium—nearly double the recommended sodium limits in the United States. After three years of follow-up, nearly one-fourth of participants developed high blood pressure.

After analysis, researchers found that adults consuming high levels of sodium had 25% greater risk of developing hypertension than those with low levels of salt consumption. Researchers also noted a link between yearly increases in salt consumption and yearly increases in blood pressure.

Findings help reaffirm the strong link between salt intake and high blood pressure. As sodium intake increases, so does blood pressure. This study clearly demonstrates how high levels of salt intake can contribute to increased risk for hypertension—a major risk factor for heart disease, heart attack and stroke. 

The challenge, however, is helping adults reduce their sodium intake. The average U.S. adult consumes 3,400 mg of sodium a day, which is well beyond recommended limits. Decreasing sodium consumption can be difficult, as many popular foods like bread, cold cuts, soups and other processed items contain excess salt. The hope is that through education and policy change, we can reduce the average sodium intake in the U.S., helping reduce risk for high blood pressure and heart disease.

Questions for You to Consider

  • What can I do to reduce my sodium intake?
  • Most of the sodium you get each day comes from processed foods rather than salt you use in cooking and at the table. Here are some tips to help you shake the sodium out of your diet: 

    • Avoid prepared foods. High sodium foods include:

      • Salty snacks such as chips and pretzels
      • Canned soups and sauces
      • Cured meats such as bacon and ham
      • Foods packed in salt water such as pickles, olives, and canned tuna
      • Frozen pizzas and dinners
      • Fast food

    • Use fresh foods whenever possible. Good choices include:

      • Fresh, frozen, or canned vegetables without added salt
      • Fresh meats, fish, and poultry rather than cooked or prepared items
      • Herbs and spices as seasoning instead than salt

    • Learn to read food labels.  Look at the “Nutrition Facts” panel on the label of packaged foods. This will tell you how much sodium is in the food.  When figuring out your sodium intake from the food label, keep in mind:

      • The milligrams (mg) listed is per serving. It is not for the whole package.  If you eat more or less than what they consider one serving, you’ll have to do the math to figure out how much sodium you are getting.

      • The percent of daily value (% DV) is based on 2400 mg a day, not the recommended 1500 mg. That means the sodium in a serving is a higher percent of your daily limit than what is listed on the label.

    • Choose carefully in restaurants. Restaurant food is high in sodium. Some ways to eat out and still keep your sodium level under control include:

      • Having your meal prepared without added salt
      • Asking that sauces, gravies, and salad dressings be served on the side
      • Selecting fresh vegetables, fruits, and salads and plain meats or fish from the menu
  • How can too much salt be harmful to your health?

  • While some salt is necessary to maintain the proper balance of fluids in the body, too much salt causes the kidneys to retain water, which increases blood volume and pressure and puts a strain on the heart. These effects can cause hypertension and significantly harm those with pre-existing heart problems.

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