Reduce blood pressure by lowering sodium intake

Pamela Egan Practical Practitioner


By: Pamela Egan, FNP-C CDE



Reduce Blood Pressure by Lowering Sodium Intake



Dear Pam,

Is there a diet to lower blood pressure?

If food was lower in sodium it would help lower levels of blood pressure in the general population. The DASH diet plus reduced dietary sodium lowers blood pressure for all persons according to the DASH study results. The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension study was supported by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

The detailed analysis, published in the Dec. 18 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine, showed the blood pressure lowering effects of the DASH diet and reduced dietary sodium in a wide variety of population subgroups: persons with and without hypertension or a family history of hypertension, older and younger adults, men and women, African-American and other races, obese and non-obese, as well as people with higher or lower physical activity levels, larger or smaller waist circumferences and higher or lower annual family income or education.

While the combination of the DASH diet and reduced dietary sodium produced the biggest reductions, each intervention also lowered blood pressure for all groups when used alone.

The DASH diet is rich in fruits, vegetables and low fat dairy foods and reduced in total and saturated fat.

It also is reduced in red meat, sweets and sugar-containing drinks. It is rich in potassium, calcium, magnesium, fiber and protein. Prior studies found that the DASH diet lowers blood pressure and also lowers blood LDL-cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol) and the amino acid homocysteine, which appears to increase the risk of heart disease. High blood pressure, also called hypertension, is a major risk for heart disease and the chief risk factor for stroke. The American Heart Association now recommends that the blood pressure be lower than 130/85. This new study substantiates the blood pressure-lowering effects of a reduced intake of salt and other forms of dietary sodium. Now we can say that cutting back on dietary sodium will benefit Americans generally and not just those with high blood pressure. Adopting these measures could help millions of Americans avoid the rise in blood pressure that occurs with advancing age.

Following the DASH diet and reducing the intake of dietary sodium are two non drug approaches that work to control blood pressure.

The blood pressure reductions achieved from this combination came in only four weeks and persisted through the duration of the study. Ideally, Americans should use both the DASH diet and reduced sodium approaches but even if they do only one, they’ll still reap significant health benefits. For more information about the DASH diet online or call my office at 892-7517 and we’ll send you a copy of the DASH diet. > Health Articles > Nutrition