For Lower Blood Pressure, Kids Should Skip the Salt

Healthnotes Newswire (October 18, 2007)—Parents: when buying or preparing foods for your children, you may want to hold the salt. New research suggests that too much salt can raise children’s blood pressure, putting them at risk for heart disease later in life.

Heart disease kills millions of people worldwide ever year, but choosing a healthy lifestyle can help decrease the risk. Getting plenty of aerobic exercise, not smoking, and eating a diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains help to keep blood pressure in check while lowering the risk of diabetes, high cholesterol, and obesity—all of which play a role in heart disease.

In adults, eating too much salt can contribute to high blood pressure. People who have higher blood pressure in their younger years are more likely to develop hypertension as they age, so identifying lifestyle habits that contribute to high blood pressure in youth is important.

The National Diet and Nutritional Survey for young people studied 1,658 kids from the United Kingdom, between ages 4 and 18. The study was published in the Journal of Human Hypertension. To investigate the relationship between salt intake and blood pressure, researchers took the children’s blood pressures and estimated the amount of salt that they ate in a day based on a seven-day dietary record. Only the salt found in foods was included; they did not include salt added during cooking or at the table.

At age 4, about 5 grams of salt per day was the average intake; by age 18, it was 7 grams per day. At any given age, increased salt intake was associated with a rise in systolic blood pressure (the top number in a blood pressure reading) and increased pulse pressure—a marker for cardiovascular disease. “These results provide further support for the accumulating evidence that dietary salt intake plays an important role in determining blood pressure in children and adolescents,” the researchers concluded.

The study’s results suggest that eating less salt could help lower blood pressure. By reducing salt consumption by 1 gram per day, systolic blood pressure could fall by 0.4 mm Hg. While this might not seem like a big drop, the researchers said, “A small decrease in blood pressure in children and adolescents would have major public health implications in terms of preventing hypertension and therefore cardiovascular disease in the future.”

(J Hum Hypertens 2007;doi:10.1038/sj.jhh.1002268)

Kimberly Beauchamp, ND, earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Rhode Island and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. She cofounded South County Naturopaths in Wakefield, RI. Dr. Beauchamp practices as a birth doula and lectures on topics including whole-foods nutrition, detoxification, and women’s health.

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