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Cut Hypertension Drugs With Low-Salt Diet

Study Shows Low-Salt Diet Reduces Need for Blood Pressure Medication
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Salt and Resistant Blood Pressure Study: Results

Compared to the high-salt diet, after being on the low-salt diet for a week, the participants had an average drop of 22.7 points for systolic blood pressure (the top number) and 9.1 for diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number).

The drop, Pimenta writes, is larger than what has been found in other blood pressure studies, suggesting that those with resistant hypertension may be especially sensitive to high salt intake.

"Doctors should reinforce the importance of a low-salt diet," Pimenta tells WebMD. "I think they should refer these patients to a nutritionist."

Salt and Blood Pressure: Across Populations

In another study in the same issue, U.K. researchers found that a modest reduction in salt intake reduces blood pressures in Asians, blacks, and whites."The vast majority of previous studies have only been in white subjects," study co-author Graham A. MacGregor, MD, professor of cardiovascular medicine at St. George's, University of London, tells WebMD.

This study tested the impact of salt reduction in 169 men and women, ages 30 to 75, who had mild high blood pressure but weren't on blood pressure medications. They reduced salt from an average of 9.7 grams a day to 6.5. That translates to dropping sodium intake from about 3,800 milligrams a day to about 2,400 milligrams, according to MacGregor. (Salt is different than sodium. Salt is about 40% sodium; the rest is chloride.)

At the study start, participants had an average blood pressure of 147/91. After being on the low-salt diet, their blood pressure dropped to an average of about 141/88.

''There were other benefits of salt reduction other than blood pressure," MacGregor tells WebMD. They found less calcium in the urine when the low-salt diet was followed. Over the long haul, reducing calcium loss through the urine would be expected to reduce osteoporosis risk. They also found less albumin in the urine.  High levels of albumin in the urine can signal kidney damage and indicate a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.

"Some people have a bigger fall [in blood pressure] than others," MacGregor says. But salt reduction, he adds, will benefit everyone. "Even if you have very low blood pressure, you are less likely to get osteoporosis."

High blood pressure affects more than 1 billion people worldwide. Even modest reductions in blood pressure readings would be expected to have a large impact on rates of blood-pressure-related diseases such as heart attack and stroke when spread over such a large population.

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