Does Salt Cause High Blood Pressure? Here’s the Truth

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Does Salt Cause High Blood Pressure?

Does salt cause high blood pressure? It’s a question that I’m asked all the time.

The answer is a resounding NO – salt does not cause high blood pressure. In fact, there is no evidence whatsoever that cutting your salt intake reduces your risk of heart attacks, strokes or death. None.

To better understand why salt has been blamed for causing high blood pressure, we need to look at how the myth got started in the first place and why it has continued to persist despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Salt is often blamed for causing high blood pressure, but is that really true? Here’s a look at the truth about salt and your health.

Salt has been associated with high blood pressure since the 1950s when an epidemiologist named Lewis Dahl noted that people who lived in areas where they consumed more salt also tended to have higher rates of hypertension.

The evidence linking salt to high blood pressure has only grown stronger over the years. Studies have shown that when people reduce their salt intake, their blood pressure drops, and when people consume more salt, their blood pressure tends to increase.

Some of this research has been done on animals; other studies have been on humans. In people with normal blood pressure, reduced salt intake has been shown to help prevent the development of high blood pressure. In those with existing hypertension, less salt can make the condition easier to treat.

Does salt cause high blood pressure? It’s a common question.

This article is part of a special report on Salt. To see the other articles in this series, click here.

Salt and high blood pressure: the facts

For most people, salt is not a health concern. But there are some people who are “salt-sensitive”. This means that they may retain salt and water, which can raise blood pressure. Therefore, they need to watch their salt intake more carefully than others.

In the US, about 25% of adults are salt-sensitive. However, it is only one factor in the development of high blood pressure (hypertension). Genetics, obesity and lack of exercise also play a role.

In fact, many studies have shown that reducing salt intake has little or no effect on blood pressure for non-salt sensitive people with normal or high normal blood pressure (120/80 mmHg or higher).

However, for people who are salt-sensitive and already have hypertension, reducing salt intake does lower blood pressure slightly.**

Americans are obsessed with salt. We’re warned to cut back on it because it will raise our blood pressure and increase our risk of heart attacks and stroke.

But is this true?

Let’s take a look at some common questions about salt and blood pressure:

Is cutting back on salt good for you?

Does a low-salt diet prolong your life?

Researchers have found no evidence that moderate amounts of sodium in your diet cause high blood pressure, or that a low-sodium diet improves health.

If you don’t like the taste of food without salt, then don’t eat a low-salt diet. Your body will tell you what it needs.

The truth is that salt alone doesn’t cause either high blood pressure or heart disease. And the research has been there all along.

Both salt and high blood pressure play a part in heart disease, but not in the way you might think. The majority of people with high blood pressure are actually sensitive to salt. This means that they retain water when they eat salt, which then causes their blood pressure to go up.

In the general population, however, most people aren’t sensitive to dietary salt and eating more or less of it has little effect on blood pressure (though it can still affect blood volume). It may even help keep our arteries healthy via an effect on nitric oxide synthesis.

But if you’re sensitive to salt, cutting back can make a big difference for your health. And it’s easy to do with the right approach.

That’s why I’m excited about my new report The Salt Fix: Why the Experts Got It All Wrong–and How Eating More Might Save Your Life . It’s the first book out there that really examines what we know about dietary sodium, both from human research studies and from evolutionary history. And I lay out a simple plan for figuring out whether you need more or less–and how much.

The culprit: Sodium, a mineral found in salt that can raise blood pressure by causing the body to retain fluid. Sodium is an essential nutrient but most people consume too much of it—an average of 3,400 milligrams (mg) per day. That’s about 1½ teaspoons of salt. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommends no more than 2,300 mg a day for healthy adults; 1,500 mg a day if you’re 51 or older.

People with high blood pressure should take steps to reduce their intake of sodium, which can help lower their blood pressure. In addition to cutting back on processed food, restaurant meals, and deli meats, which often contain large amounts of sodium, people with high blood pressure should also avoid adding salt when preparing food or at the table.

Even small amounts of sodium are harmful. The average American adult consumes 3,400 milligrams (mg) of sodium a day (1½ teaspoons). The 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting sodium to less than 2,300 mg a day as part of a healthy eating pattern—with an even lower limit of 1,500 mg/day for some people. Research shows that limiting sodium intake can help lower blood pressure and improve other health problems

Salt is a mineral composed primarily of sodium chloride (NaCl), a chemical compound belonging to the larger class of salts; salt in its natural form as a crystalline mineral is known as rock salt or halite. Salt is present in vast quantities in seawater, where it is the main mineral constituent. The open ocean has about 35 grams (1.2 oz) of solids per liter of sea water, a salinity of 3.5%.

Salt is essential for life in general, and saltiness is one of the basic human tastes. Salt is one of the oldest and most ubiquitous food seasonings, and salting is an important method of food preservation.

Some of the earliest evidence of salt processing dates to around 6,000 BC, when people living in the area now known as Romania boiled spring water to extract salts; a salt-works in China dates to approximately the same period. Salt was also prized by the ancient Hebrews, the Greeks, the Romans, the Byzantines, the Hittites and other peoples of antiquity.

Apart from its use in cooking and at the table, salt is present in many processed foods.[12] Sodium is an essential nutrient for human health via its role as an electrolyte and osmotic solute