Lancaster General Health

11/26/2021 | News release | Distributed by Public on 11/26/2021 09:44

Watch Your Salt to Lower Your Blood Pressure

Do you automatically reach for the salt shaker when you sit down to a meal and give little thought to the amount of sodium in the processed foods you buy at the grocery store or in meals you eat at restaurants? If so, you are like millions of Americans.

Excess salt consumption can lead to high blood pressure which is at the root of some major health problems like heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease. Various studies find that even small amounts of salt may increase your risk of premature death.

In an effort to curb Americans' sodium intake, in October 2021 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued guidelines that call on chain restaurants and food manufacturers to voluntarily reduce salt content in their products. The goal: to reduce Americans' average daily sodium intake from 3,400 to 3,000 milligrams (mg) over the next two-and-a-half years-a gradual process so taste buds barely notice.

This is a step in the right direction, but still far above the U.S. dietary guidelines' recommended limit of 2,300 mg of salt (approximately one teaspoon) for people ages 14 and older. Learn what actions you can take to reduce your sodium consumption and help extend your life.

Why Does Salt Cause High Blood Pressure?

Salt (sodium) gives food flavor and preserves it. In your body, salt transmits nerve impulses, balances fluids, and contracts and relaxes muscle fibers.

However, too much salt causes your body to retain water, upsetting the water balance. Consistently retaining water can lead to an increase in hypertension, or blood pressure -- the pressure that blood exerts on the vessels as it travels through your body. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke.

According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly half of adults in the United States (47%, or 116 million) have hypertension, defined as a systolic blood pressure greater than 130 mmHg or a diastolic blood pressure greater than 80 mmHg, or are taking medication for hypertension.

While many factors contribute to hypertension, including obesity, smoking, and not exercising regularly, limiting your salt intake is one easy way to help keep your blood pressure under control.

5 Ways to Lower Your Salt Intake...and Your Blood Pressure

  • Keep your hands off the salt shaker. Don't season food before tasting, and if you must add salt, do so sparingly.
  • Avoid processed foods like canned vegetables and soups, pasta sauces, frozen entrees, lunch meats, and snacks, which contain high levels of sodium.
  • Limit your use of condiments (soy sauce, salad dressings, ketchup, pickles, Worcestershire sauce)-another source of sodium.
  • Eat a diet that can help lower blood pressure, one that's rich in fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, whole grains, fish, lean meats, poultry, beans, and nuts (unsalted, of course). This diet will also increase your intake of potassium (think bananas), which one study found reduces blood pressure and risk of stroke.
  • Try heart-healthy recipes on the LG Health Hub.

If you have high blood pressure, it's important to work closely with your doctor to manage the condition, sometimes called the silent killer because of its often lack of obvious symptoms, and learn the best way to live a healthy lifestyle.