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The Salt Connection continued...

Studies have shown that cutting back on salt can lower blood pressure in people with and without high blood pressure, according to a statement from the AHA.

"Reduced salt intake can blunt the rise in blood pressure that occurs with age and reduce the risk of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease events and congestive heart failure," according to the January 2006 statement.

Here's something baby boomers need to know: People tend to become more sensitive to sodium as they get older. Likewise, their blood pressure is more likely to drop when they cut back on salt in their later years.

Further, sodium may increase the risk for stroke even beyond its affect on blood pressure, according to research reported at the 2005 American Stroke Association International Conference.

The risk of stroke was higher in people who ate more sodium, regardless of their blood pressure, reported researchers. Their results also showed that people who took in more than 4,000 milligrams of sodium a day almost doubled their stroke risk compared with those getting 2,400 milligrams or less.

Are You Salt-Sensitive?

The reason salt-sensitive people's blood pressure responds strongly to salt intake is through sodium's effect on blood volume. When you eat more salt, your blood pressure tends to rise and when you eat less salt, your blood pressure lowers.

What portion of the population is salt-sensitive? Some researchers have estimated that about a quarter of the American population with normal blood pressure is salt-sensitive, while about half of the people with high blood pressure seem to be salt-sensitive. The black population has demonstrated a greater susceptibility to salt sensitivity than the white population, adds Thierry-Palmer.

5 Steps to Less Salt

1. Pass Up Processed Foods

The Food Standards Agency of the United Kingdom estimates that 75% of salt intake comes from processed food. Some food companies are developing products with less sodium, so keep an eye out for sodium listed on food labels. Only small amounts of sodium occur naturally in foods, eating mostly natural, whole foods will help keep levels of sodium down.

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