Why can eating salt (sodium) raise blood pressure?

Eating salt, or sodium, can contribute to high blood pressure because it makes you to retain too much water. The extra water increases the amount of pressure inside your blood vessels, causing your blood pressure to rise. 
If you have high blood pressure or are at risk of developing it, your physician may recommend that you cut back on sodium in your diet. Because a high percentage of dietary sodium in the United States comes from processed foods, you will want to monitor your sodium intake by reading the Nutrition Facts panel on packaged foods. The label will tell you how much sodium is in the product. This is different from the amount of salt, because table salt (sodium chloride) is only one form of sodium, and the food you are considering may contain other forms of sodium, such as monosodium glutamate (MSG).

But how does sodium contribute to high blood pressure? Sodium causes water retention and can increase the volume of blood that is circulating through your body and the pressure against artery walls, which is your blood pressure. If this force is too high, it can damage the arteries and heart over time.

The good news is that eating a diet low in sodium helps lower blood pressure, and therefore, heart disease risk. The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (or DASH) diet is a famous heart-healthy eating plan. It was developed for research to determine what combination of foods helps to lower blood pressure. The DASH diet is low in saturated fat and cholesterol, and high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products. One part of the study compared various sodium levels to see if blood pressure was affected. The results were dramatic and showed that the lower the intake of sodium, the lower the blood pressures were for participants.

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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.