BLOG: Salt’s role in high blood pressure
Salt’s role in high blood pressure:
“Dad, can we go to Buffalo Wild Wings?” Of my son’s four food groups, three are high in sodium (which is the primary ingredient in salt). First, the meat/protein group (breaded chicken nuggets, 600 mg of sodium which is about 1/4 teaspoon of salt); second, carbohydrates (rolls and bread, 200 or 230 mg of sodium per slice); third, the ultimate complete food group—pizza (500-700 mg of sodium per slice—about ¼ teaspoon of salt per slice!) and fourth, Smoothie King (which he also considers a complete meal).
How do we know sodium/salt intake effects blood pressure?
Several studies have evaluated salt intake in different cultures. An isolated group of Brazilian people known as the Yanomamo eat 50 mg of salt per day which is the equivalent of a very tiny pinch of salt (the world’s lowest daily intake of salt), and maintain an average blood pressure of 96/61 throughout their life. On the opposite end of the scale, the Japanese Akita farmers eat nearly 3 teaspoons of salt per day, and have an average blood pressure of 151/93. Some villages have a 99% stroke mortality rate by age 70.
Worldwide, the average salt intake is 1-1/2 teaspoons to 2-1/2 teaspoons per day. The prevalence of high blood pressure in 2025 is projected to be 42.4% of the population worldwide. The World Health Organization says by reducing salt intake to less than 5g (or one teaspoon) per day, worldwide we would prevent 66,000 strokes and 99,000 heart attacks, leading to healthcare savings of 24 billion dollars annually.
Americans ingest 8.5 g of table salt (or 1-1/2 teaspoons) daily. The FDA recommends reducing intake to 5.6 g of table salt (2300 mg of sodium or one teaspoon of salt) per day. Further restriction to 3.6 g of table salt (1500 mg of sodium or a little less than ¾ of a teaspoon per day) is suggested for patients with hypertension and heart disease.
Check packaging when shopping and pay attention to the milligrams of sodium in food and follow the FDA recommendations of a maximum of 2300 mg of sodium per day. Stay tuned for my next blog for tips on cutting back on sodium!
David Wendt, MD, FACC