Skipping the extra salt may be as effective as medication when it comes to lowering blood pressure

By Claire Wolters | Fact-checked by Jessica Wrubel
Published November 27, 2023

Key Takeaways

  • Sodium intake can impact blood pressure.

  • For middle-aged to older adults, reducing salt intake may have benefits similar to first-line blood pressure medications.

It’s no secret that sodium can affect blood pressure. Now, researchers suggest the amount of salt in your diet has a more profound impact than previously realized. 

A new study found that a low-sodium diet offers blood pressure reductions similar to first-line antihypertensive medication in middle-aged to older adults. The findings further emphasize the importance of diet in maintaining good heart health.[]

The study followed 213 people who followed a high-sodium diet for a week and then a low-sodium diet for a week, or vice-versa. Of those who participated in the study, 65% identified as female, and 64% were Black. The average age of participants was 61.

At the end of the first week, the researchers found that participants who completed the low-sodium diet first had lower blood pressure levels than those who started with the high-sodium diet. After the second week, they noted that the low-to-high sodium group did not experience a significant change in blood pressure levels – but the high-to-low-sodium group did.

Among those who completed a high- and then low-sodium diet, the low-sodium diet led to a decline in average arterial pressure for 73.4% of participants –  which could be credited to the difference in diet. The average difference in systolic blood pressure following the different diets was 8 mm Hg, and this was similar across participants of different races, sexes, and hypertension status.

While sodium’s connection to blood pressure is not new news, the findings may play an important role in clarifying dietary sodium’s role in managing blood pressure. Further, they add to knowledge on how dietary sodium impacts individuals taking antihypertensive medication, which the researchers say is understudied.

For doctors and dietitians, the study can help guide how you talk to patients about dietary choices – especially if they are worried about blood pressure management.

Encouraging patients to be mindful of the extra use of table salt and hidden sources of sodium in items like frozen meals can be a good place to start.

What this means for you

Sodium intake can impact heart health. A new study found that reducing dietary sodium intake may have comparable results to using blood pressure medications for older adults.

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