Cutting back on salt and eating more fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products can reduce blood pressure to a level on par with that achieved by blood pressure-lowering drugs, according to researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts. This holds true whether you are black, white or in another ethnic group, male or female, and have elevated or normal blood pressure.
The findings of this recent study suggest that current recommendations to consume no more than 2,400 milligrams (mg) of sodium daily may be too high. The study included 412 people who followed either a typical American diet (red meat, sweets, sugar-containing drinks and few fruits and vegetables) or the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension). The DASH diet, which is prescribed to people with high blood pressure, emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish and nuts. It contains less fat and cholesterol and more minerals, fibre and protein than the typical American diet. The study participants consumed a diet with high-, medium- or low-salt intake.
People who reduced their daily salt intake to about 1,500 mg daily saw reductions in blood pressure even as they continued to eat a typical American diet of about 2,100 calories. While the DASH diet alone reduced blood pressure, combining it with a low-sodium diet packed a blood pressure-lowering punch. In those with high blood pressure, the "effects were equal to or greater than" taking a blood pressure lowering drug, the report indicates.
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