Can a sodium-restricted diet help in treating hypertension?

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Some people can lower their blood pressure by consuming less sodium. Not everyone is "salt sensitive," but intake of sodium (a component of salt) is thought to affect blood pressure levels in about 60 percent of people who have high blood pressure. Too much sodium makes the body retain fluid. This makes the heart work harder, and when your heart works harder, this can make your blood pressure rise.

To help control your blood pressure, you should try to limit your sodium intake to less than 1500 milligrams per day. By contrast, the average American consumes 3,400 milligrams of sodium per day.

About one teaspoon of salt contains 1,000 milligrams of sodium. And the foods we eat already contain a lot of sodium, so it's important to limit that extra salt you sprinkle on your food. One surefire way to limit the sodium in your diet is to avoid packaged and processed foods. You can also try cooking with different herbs and spices instead of salt, which improves the flavor of foods and is also better for you.
High blood pressure affects 1 in 4 Americans. It makes your heart work harder, damages arteries, and increases your risk for heart disease. Cutting back on salt is important for everyone, but especially for people with high blood pressure, heart failure, or people who tend to retain fluids. Less sodium means less fluid in your body — and a lighter workload for your heart.  Recent U.S. dietary guidelines recommend that most people limit salt to 1,500 mg (about a half teaspoon) or less per day.
 You may also be able to improve your blood pressure by adding more potassium and calcium to your diet.  Potassium-rich foods include dark green leafy vegetables, fruits from vines, root vegetables. Here are a few examples: potatoes, winter squash, prunes, cantaloupe, apricots, oranges, tomatoes, spinach, bananas, honeydew, lentils and other dry beans.
Mark P. Caruso, MD
Internal Medicine
Yes. Sodium is a leading driver of high blood pressure (hypertension). 

Processed foods, especially baked goods, such as bread, breakfast cereals, muffins and cakes, are the biggest culprits. But adding table salt to meals at home or at restaurants also contributes to excessive sodium intake. Most Americans consume more than the recommended 1,500 milligrams per day of sodium in their diets.

Generally, reducing sodium is a healthy choice for most people. Ideally, you should try to keep your intake under 1,500 milligrams per day.  

If you are diagnosed with hypertension, it is important to check your food’s nutrition labels for sodium content and keep track throughout the day of how much you are consuming.
Rosendo I. Collazo, DO
Internal Medicine
Sodium intake is a contributor to high blood pressure (hypertension). The primary source of sodium in your diet is usually processed foods, especially baked goods and cereals. So breaking away from these foods with high sodium levels can help to control your hypertension. 
Generally, reducing sodium in the diet is a healthy option for most people. You should try to keep your intake under 1,500 milligrams per day. That is quite low for the average person, but it's an important step toward cardiovascular health.
Check your food’s nutrition labels for sodium content regularly. Here's an easy way to keep track: individual food products should contain no more than 200 mg per serving, while meals should contain less than 600 mg total.
Currently, healthy adults are recommended to get no more than 2,400 milligrams of sodium per day. That's the equivalent of just one teaspoon of table salt. For people with hypertension, a limit of 1,500 milligrams is recommended. To reduce sodium in your diet, try rinsing canned foods before you eat them. Also, cutting down on the amount of processed food you eat can make a big difference; there is usually a lot of hidden sodium in foods like salad dressings, frozen meals, canned soups, and jarred sauces. Buy low-sodium products whenever possible.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.