By Jane Hart, MD
Healthnotes Newswire (January 31, 2008)—For many people, salt is a mealtime staple for its taste and flavor-enhancing effects. But a new study suggests that skipping the salt and making other healthy changes to the diet may lead to a modest decrease in blood pressure.
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a leading cause of stroke, heart attacks, and kidney disease. Research has shown that genetics, the environment, and dietary factors (including salt intake) may contribute. Despite heightened public awareness about the disease, its incidence is increasing throughout the world.
The new study examined the effects of a no-added-salt diet along with the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet on the blood pressures of people with mild to moderate hypertension. The DASH diet emphasizes fruits and vegetables and low-fat dairy foods while limiting saturated fat, total fat, and cholesterol.
The study included 60 people with high blood pressure who were instructed to follow a no-added-salt-plus-DASH diet for six weeks. They did not take blood pressure medication during the study, and their blood pressure was monitored before the diet and six weeks after. A control group consisting of 20 healthy people was also monitored,
After six weeks on the diet, the group with high blood pressure experienced a decrease in systolic pressure (the top number in the blood pressure reading) and a decrease in diastolic pressure (the bottom number in the blood pressure reading). The control group saw only slight changes.
“There is much evidence that a reduction in dietary salt intake lowers blood pressure in hypertensive individuals,” said Javad Kojuri and his colleagues from Shiraz University of Medical Sciences in Shiraz, Iran.
To decrease risk of developing high blood pressure, Kojuri and his colleagues recommend eating a no-added-salt diet and avoiding presalted foods. The American Heart Association recommends that healthy people eat less than 2,300 mg of sodium a day, which is equal to 1 teaspoon of salt. A person with heart disease should not have more than 2,000 mg of sodium a day.
The DASH diet may have also helped to lower blood pressure, as prior research has shown that it may lead to modest decreases in high blood pressure. People with hypertension should talk with their physicians about dietary recommendations to help manage and treat their condition.
(BMC Cardiovasc Disord 2007 7:34 doi:10.1186/1471-2261-7-34)
Jane Hart, MD, board-certified in internal medicine, serves in a variety of professional roles including consultant, journalist, and educator. Dr. Hart, a Clinical Instructor at Case Medical School in Cleveland, Ohio, writes extensively about health and wellness and a variety of other topics for nationally recognized organizations, Web sites, and print publications. Sought out for her expertise in the areas of integrative and preventive medicine, she is frequently quoted by national and local media. Dr. Hart is a professional lecturer for healthcare professionals, consumers, and youth and is a regular corporate speaker.
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