Salt and High Blood Pressure: An Unwise Combination

To cope with your high blood pressure, also called hypertension, you have but one objective: lower it! Get your blood pressure down to a healthy level. Hypertension is the “silent killer” because is has no overt symptoms; most people don’t realize they have it until it’s too late and they’ve suffered a stroke, heart attack, or kidney failure.

Your physician will suggest several ways that you can lower your blood pressure, but it’s up to you to follow his/her instructions. You will need to take antihypertensive medication, lose weight, and increase your exercise. There is another thing your doctor will talk with you about: changing your diet. Salt and high blood pressure is a very dangerous combination.

How are Salt and High Blood Pressure Related?

First, don’t believe the hype! There is no “miracle cure” for high blood pressure that lets you use all the salt you wish. Although researchers are not certain how hypertension develops, one thing is known: people who use excessive salt often develop high blood pressure. The sodium chloride we use at the table is the salt that’s associated with high blood pressure; salt and high blood pressure are a serious combination.

This is especially true among African Americans of either gender as well as the elderly. Diuretics are drugs that increase your urine output and flush out extra salt from your body. The use of a diuretic alone may be enough to rid your body of the salt that’s associated with high blood pressure. But don’t try to cheat; don’t use all the salt you wish and then use a diuretic to get rid of it, because it simply doesn’t work like that. Remember that salt and high blood pressure are scientifically correlated.

To reduce salt intake, remove that salt shaker from your table! Use only very small amounts, no more that half a teaspoon, to season your cooking food. Another effective way to reduce the salt that’s associated with high blood pressure is to cut way back on snacks like potato chips, pretzels, salted nuts, and other salty junk foods.

Salt and high blood pressure comes in many different ways; salt that is associated with high blood pressure is also found in over-abundance in frozen and processed food. Read the labels on the packages; you’ll be shocked at how much salt you’re unknowingly consuming.

Potassium is a salt, too. But it isn’t the type of salt that causes high blood pressure. In fact, potassium has a positive effect on hypertension. People who eat a lot of food that contains potassium, like fruits and vegetables, have lower blood pressure. Plus, they weigh less and get all the fiber they need.

Other salts like calcium and magnesium may also have beneficial effects on hypertension. Researchers today are uncertain about this, however. Until we know more, focus on lowering your sodium chloride salt to decrease high blood pressure.

In 1997, the federal government funded research on a dietary approach to eliminate hypertension. The DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) is an eating plan designed to prevent and decrease high blood pressure. The New England Journal of Medicine evaluated the DASH diet and found it to be very effective in reducing hypertension.

The diet emphasizes the correlation between salt and high blood pressure and recommends that we use a salt substitute or a savory combination of herbs to flavor our food. The Dash diet is rich in non-salty foods like fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, meat, chicken, pork and fish protein, large amounts of food containing fiber, potassium and calcium.

Since salt and high blood pressure is such an unwise combination, in order to lower your risk for life-threatening hypertensive-induced conditions, start doing anything you can to change your diet.