A recent meta-analysis published in the British Medical Journal has found that a reduced dietary intake of salt not only keeps hypertension at bay in healthy people, it also improves heart health in people with existing medical conditions.
Hypertension is constant high blood pressure, i.e., 140/90mmHg. However, the American Heart Association has revised hypertension guidelines saying anyone with a BP higher than 130/80 should be considered hypertensive. The normal range of blood pressure is 120/80 mmHg.
Feng He, lead author and professor of global health research at Queen Mary University, investigated the relationship of salt and its effects on blood pressure. They called for the reinforcement of salt reduction efforts. He says, “Salt reduction efforts should be reinforced in the UK and worldwide to save millions of people suffering and dying unnecessarily from strokes and heart disease each year.”
The researchers combed over 133 studies and conducted a meta-analysis following PRISMA guidelines. The studies included over 12,197 participants. The results revealed that reduction of 24 hours urinary sodium (reduced-sodium vs usual) decreased to 130, systolic blood pressure decreased 2,26mmHg and diastolic decreased to 2.07mmHg. Every 50ml reduction in 24 hours sodium was linked with a 1.10 mmHg reduction in systolic BP and 0.33 in diastolic BP. The results were prominent in old, non-white and people with high systolic blood pressure. In less than 15 days of trial there was 50 mmol reductions in 24-hour urinary sodium, systolic BP fell 1.05 mmHg. The lesser effect was seen in studies of longer duration.
Feng He believes that reducing salt intake can be extremely beneficial because it will save millions of hypertensive and at-risk people from sudden death. Hypertension is deemed a silent killer. It can cause strokes, heart disease, kidney disease and death. Each year, at least 18 million people die due to hypertension.
According to the World Health Organization, 1.13 billion people in the world are living with high blood pressure and most of the sufferers belong to low or middle-income countries. In the US, one-third of adults have high blood pressure.
The AHA recommends sodium intake of less than 2,300 mg per day. It is even better if we take it down to 1,500 mg per day because it will prevent high blood pressure and associated complications.
What many people do not know is that the table salt is not our only source of sodium. Green leafy vegetables, grains, cereals, meat, processed and junk food are major contributors of sodium in our diet. For example, a bowl of cereal with milk can contain up to 300mg of sodium and a slice of pizza with salad may contain 750mg of sodium. Foods that include 35mg-140 mg per serving are considered normal-sodium. Eggs should be eaten without sodium as they naturally contain it.
A diet named DASH has proven to be very beneficial in controlling blood pressure and for the heart. DASH diet includes more fruits, vegetables and whole grains. It limits the intake of high fat or saturated foods and high sugar foods.