Simple dietary change has a profound impact on blood pressure, study finds
[Nov. 20, 2023: JJ Shavit, The Brighter Side of News]
Hypertension, often referred to as the "silent killer," affects millions of individuals worldwide and is a leading risk factor for cardiovascular diseases. (CREDIT: Creative Commons)
Hypertension, often referred to as the "silent killer," affects millions of individuals worldwide and is a leading risk factor for cardiovascular diseases, including heart failure, heart attacks, and strokes. In the United States alone, over 61.9 million adults rely on blood pressure medication to manage their condition.
However, a groundbreaking study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association has shed light on a simple dietary change that could potentially have a profound impact on blood pressure control – reducing salt intake by just 1 teaspoon daily.
Researchers from Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Northwestern Medicine, and the University of Alabama at Birmingham collaborated on this study, which involved 213 individuals aged 50 to 75 years. The participants underwent a comprehensive evaluation while consuming their regular diets, followed by a low-sodium diet for one week and a high-sodium diet for another week.
"Most middle-aged to elderly individuals consume a diet that is very high in sodium," noted Dr. Deepak Gupta, an associate professor of Medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and co-principal investigator of the study.
The results were striking – the low-sodium diet led to a reduction in systolic blood pressure by an impressive 6 mm Hg, a decrease comparable to the effects of commonly prescribed medications for high blood pressure.
The participants in the study achieved this remarkable reduction by simply reducing their daily salt intake by approximately 1 teaspoon, equivalent to about 2,300 mg of sodium contained in a tablespoon of salt. This significant decrease in blood pressure was consistent across individuals with varying blood pressure profiles, including those with normal blood pressure, controlled hypertension, untreated hypertension, and uncontrolled hypertension.
Dr. Norrina Allen, a professor of preventive medicine at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and co-principal investigator of the study, highlighted that approximately 70% to 75% of the study participants experienced a decrease in blood pressure, regardless of whether they were already taking medication. These findings were presented at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions 2023, underlining the importance of dietary sodium reduction in blood pressure management.
What makes these findings even more compelling is the speed at which the participants' blood pressure responded to the low-sodium diet. Dr. Cora Lewis, a professor of medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and a co-investigator of the study, emphasized that blood pressure dropped significantly within just one week and was well-tolerated by the participants. This rapid response underscores the potential public health impact of reducing dietary sodium intake, given the global health significance of high blood pressure.
Dr. Bradley Serwer, a Maryland-based cardiologist and chief medical officer at VitalSolution, who was not directly involved in the study, also expressed his thoughts on the findings. He noted that the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends adults to limit their daily sodium intake to 1,500 mg or less. Serwer stated, "This degree of improvement is comparable to taking blood pressure medication, but without any side effects." He went on to explain the role of sodium in maintaining blood pressure, highlighting how it attracts water and leads to increased fluid absorption in the gut, ultimately resulting in higher blood pressures and additional strain on the heart.
In this crossover study of 213 individuals, 1 week of a low-sodium diet resulted in an average 8–mm Hg reduction in systolic blood pressure vs a high-sodium diet, with few adverse events. (CREDIT: JAMA Network)
The AHA's recommendation of 1,500 mg or less of daily sodium intake aligns with the study's goals of reducing sodium consumption even further. Hypertension remains a global health crisis, affecting over one billion people worldwide, according to data from the World Heart Federation.
Dr. Norrina Allen emphasized, "High blood pressure can lead to heart failure, heart attacks, and strokes because it puts extra pressure on your arteries." Furthermore, hypertension contributed to a staggering 691,095 deaths in the United States in 2021, as reported by the CDC.
Sodium is a key player in maintaining blood pressure, as it attracts water and causes more fluid absorption from your gut. (CREDIT: Creative Commons)
Dr. Deepak Gupta aptly described hypertension as the "silent killer," responsible for one in eight deaths worldwide. Preventing hypertension and effectively managing blood pressure are crucial components of promoting healthier and longer lives for individuals across the globe.
In a world where hypertension remains a major health concern, this research offers a ray of hope for individuals seeking effective ways to control their blood pressure. The study serves as a reminder that small changes in dietary habits can lead to significant improvements in cardiovascular health, ultimately contributing to a healthier and longer life for many. As researchers continue to explore innovative approaches to managing hypertension, the importance of a balanced and low-sodium diet is more apparent than ever.
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