Understanding Hypertension

What Does Salt Have To Do With Blood Pressure?

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By Earlexia Norwood, M.D.

February is American Heart Month, so you may be hearing a lot in the media about high blood pressure, among other factors, that contribute to your risk for heart disease. Maintaining a healthy blood pressure is crucial to sustaining the vitality of your organs and body systems. And yet, more than 67 million American adults – or 1 in 3 – suffer from high blood pressure, or hypertension.

Millions more suffer from pre-hypertension, or blood pressure that’s much higher than normal, but not necessarily classified yet in the high blood pressure range.

Though these numbers are discouraging, there are things you can do to prevent becoming a statistic. Here’s what you need to know about the salt/blood pressure connection.

Salt and High Blood Pressure
Salt (sodium) is essential to having a healthy body. But too much salt can lead to health problems if the kidneys can’t keep up and process it correctly. When that happens, excess salt can enter the bloodstream, which increases volume by attracting water. This, in turn, increases the pressure within the vessels.

How Much Salt is Too Much?
The recommended amount in your diet is less than 2300 mg of salt per day, but people who already suffer from high blood pressure may require less than 1500 mg. Some people who typically suffer from high blood pressure are especially salt sensitive, including:

  • African Americans
  • Elderly
  • People with kidney disease

Understanding Salt in Your Food
The most salt or sodium in your diet comes from processed food. The single biggest culprit – perhaps not surprisingly – is bread. But before you toss out those loaves, know that there are low-sodium breads available. All hope isn’t lost, carb lovers.

Preventing High Blood Pressure
There are many easy steps you can take each day to prevent high blood pressure:

  • Monitor your diet
  • Quit smoking (which you should do regardless!)
  • Exercise
  • Maintain a healthy weight for your height
  • Steering clear of stimulant drugs and stimulant drinks
  • Load up on foods high in potassium

So put down those energy drinks, and pick up a banana, orange or some leafy greens. Your body will thank you for it!

For tips on choosing low sodium foods at the grocery store, check out this short video.

Not sure what your blood pressure numbers are? Make an appointment with a primary care provider at henryford.com or call 1-800-HENRYFORD (436-7936).