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Studies Question Need to Watch Your Salt

Some Still Need to Watch Salt

The advice to breathe easy on salt doesn’t apply to everyone, however. 

“If you are older, over age 55 or 60, if you have hypertension, or if you are obese -- any one of those things -- you need to take a look at what you’re eating and try to reduce your intake of prepared foods and obviously things that have a lot of salt in them,” Oparil says.

All three studies found stronger links between sodium and blood pressure in people who were older and those who already had high blood pressure. 

Plus, Oparil says people who are obese become much more sensitive to salt.

She tells her patients who have high blood pressure to cut back on their restaurant meals and cook more at home. The salt that is added to prepared foods has a greater impact on your daily sodium than what’s added with the shaker, she says.

She tells her patients who are overweight or obese to focus on losing weight. In her experience, weight loss has bigger effects on blood pressure than drastically cutting sodium.

And finally, she advises patients to get more potassium.

“If you eat a lot of potassium-containing foods, you greatly blunt the blood-pressure-elevating effect of sodium,” she says.

The new studies also found a link between higher potassium levels and lower blood pressure. Each additional 1,000 milligrams of daily potassium was tied to a decrease of about 1 point in systolic blood pressure (the top number in blood pressure).

Potassium-Rich Foods

How much potassium do you need? For adults, Institute of Medicine recommends 4,700 milligrams of potassium a day to lower blood pressure, blunt the effects of salt, and lower the risk of kidney stones and bone loss.  But most of us are only getting about half that much.

To get more of this valuable mineral in your diet, concentrate on eating more dark, leafy greens, beans, and low-fat dairy products.

Here are 12 other high-potassium standouts to add to the menu:

Baked potato (1 large)1,600 mg
Beet greens (1 cup cooked)1,309 mg
Avocado (1 large whole)1,067 mg
White beans (1 cup cooked)1,004 mg
Acorn squash (1 cup cooked)896 mg
Apricots (1/2 cup dried)755 mg
Vegetable juice (12 oz)648 mg
Yogurt (1 cup plain, low-fat)573 mg
Orange juice (1 cup)496 mg
Brussels sprouts (1 cup)494 mg
Cantaloupe (1 cup)473 mg
Banana (1 medium)422 mg



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