Caring Currents

High Blood Pressure? Put Down the Salt Shaker

Last updated: Aug 18, 2008


It's the million dollar question for people with high blood pressure: Which is more important, your genes or your diet? A new report published in the current issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows a direct correlation between sodium -- or salt -- intake and high blood pressure.

In a study of more than 11,000 people, researchers found that those who ate more salt were the ones with high blood pressure -- regardless of what form they had of a particular gene involved in blood pressure regulation. Although this certainly doesn't close the book on the genes-versus-diet debate, it's a compelling reason for people with high blood pressure to watch how much salt they eat. As Dr. Paul Conlin points out in an editorial accompanying the report, there’s no sense worrying about your genes, but you can control your sodium intake. According to the American Heart Association, people with high blood pressure or other cardiovascular risk factors should eat less than 1,500 mg of salt each day.

Which, of course, is much easier said than done. Especially if the person with high blood pressure is your parent, who may not even want to think about kicking the salt habit.

The good news is that there's a fantastic resource for heart-healthy, low-sodium eating: The American Heart Association. Here are a few of the tips and guidelines you can find on their website:

Printable fact sheet: Why Should I Limit My Sodium? A good starting point for having The Big Conversation about cutting down on salt.

Strategies for limiting salt. Arranged in order of small to big lifestyle changes, so you can take it one step at a time.

Low-sodium recipes . A sampling of recipes from the American Heart Association Low-Salt Cookbook, 3rd Edition.

Tips for eating out. Mostly focused on fats and cholesterol, but also includes guidelines for low-sodium dining.

Image by Flickr user TooFarNorth used under the Creative Commons attribution license.