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Low-sodium diet can mitigate high blood pressure just as effectively as common drugs, reveals study

Research suggests that cutting the amount of salt intake can be an effective alternative to medications treating high blood pressure levels.

Low-sodium diet can mitigate high blood pressure just as effectively as common drugs, reveals study
Representative Cover Image Souce: Pexels | RDNE Stock Project

From spicy chicken wings to sugary cupcakes, every dish is incomplete without a bit of salt. It is the most basic and essential element found in every kitchen all around the world. However, as the saying goes, 'Too much of anything is good for nothing.' In recent years, fast food addiction among the urban population has been on the rise leading to high salt intake and increasing the risk of high blood pressure. But as per CBS News, recent research brings hope as it reveals that a low-sodium diet works as effectively as the commonly prescribed medications for high blood pressure. 

Representative Image Source: Pexels | Thirdman
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Thirdman

Considering the fact that the effect of dietary sodium on people taking anti-hypertensive medications is understudied, this study intended to delve deep into analyzing the difference in BP levels of individuals when the dietary sodium is increased or decreased and its impact on their medication usage. Published by the Journal of American Medical Association, this study involved 213 participants between 50 to 75 years of age with or without existing hypertension (High BP) conditions. The participants's average blood pressure was measured while they were on their usual diet and then when they completed a 7-day high-sodium (2200 mg) and low-sodium (500 mg) diet. 

Representative Image Source: Pexels | Gustavo Fring
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Gustavo Fring

The results of this parallel-group analysis showed that the low-sodium diet induced a decrease in mean arterial pressure in 73.4% of individuals. At the end of a week-long low-sodium diet, the systolic blood pressure (pressure caused by the heart's contraction as it pushes out blood) of the participants dropped by 8mm Hg compared to the levels during a high-sodium diet and 6mm Hg compared to the levels during their usual diet. Irrespective of the participants' age, gender, race and existing blood pressure conditions, this reduction was commonly identified in everyone. The most exciting part is that these results are similar to the average effect of a 12.5mg dosage of hydrochlorothiazide, a medication commonly prescribed for treating hypertension. 

Representative Image Source: Pexels | Marek Kupiec
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Marek Kupiec

Apparently, the BP response was not associated with any antihypertensive medications but was purely the magic of low-sodium diets. According to the researchers, on average, reducing 1 tablespoon of salt from the usual quantity per day does the job. "That none of the classes of antihypertensive medications was consistently associated with the BP response to dietary sodium emphasizes the importance of continued lifestyle modification even among individuals with treated hypertension," mentioned the researchers. They also implied there may be limitations to this research caused by overestimation or underestimation due to demographic or circumstantial reasons. However, the results suggested have immense practical value as reassured by the researchers.

In March 2023, WHO reported that an estimated 1.28 billion adults between the ages of 30 to 79 years worldwide have hypertension (blood pressure of 140 mm Hg or higher). Among other reasons like old age, genetics, obesity and alcohol consumption, high salt intake was found to play a pivotal role in causing hypertension and the cardiovascular risks associated with it. The aforementioned study is our wake-up call to make small lifestyle changes, especially by keeping our salt intake in check in our daily meals.