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.