Healthy diet plus reduced salt lowers blood pressure

August 25, 2004 in Heart Health, Nutrition Topics in the News

Healthy diet plus reduced salt lowers blood pressure

A new report provides more evidence that a low-fat diet full of fruits and vegetables, but little salt, can lead to a significant drop in blood pressure.

The findings underscore the role that diet, specifically a low-fat diet called DASH, can play in lowering blood pressure. The report re-emphasized the benefits of the DASH diet and a lower sodium intake for reducing blood pressure.

In the study, 412 people were randomly assigned to a typical American diet or the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension). The DASH diet focuses on fruit, vegetables, low-fat dairy foods, whole grains, poultry, fish, beans and nuts.

Researchers varied participants' salt intake, with each group consuming high, medium and low levels of salt per day for a month at a time during the 3-month study.

At the start of the study, the subjects' systolic blood pressure - the upper number in a reading - ranged from 120 to 159 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) and diastolic pressure - the lower number - ranged from 80 to 95 mm Hg. Blood pressure of 140/90 mm Hg or higher is considered high -- even if only one number is elevated. A reading between 130/85 and 139/89 is considered high normal.

When it comes to reducing blood pressure by cutting back on salt, lower may be better, the findings suggest. Although blood pressure dropped when people switched from high-sodium intake to medium intake, the drop was roughly twice as large when they switched from the medium intake to the low intake.

The pressure-lowering benefits of cutting back on salt were consistent regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, age or previous blood pressure level, the study found.

This suggests that it may be worthwhile to lower recommendations for sodium intake, as the medium level represents the upper limit of current U.S. recommendations.

Bray's team also found that age was strongly related to the effect of sodium reduction and the DASH diet on blood pressure. The benefits of cutting back on sodium and following the low-fat diet increased with age, particularly after middle age.

The researchers suggest that sodium reduction and the DASH diet should be recommended for preventing and treating high blood pressure.

All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.