My annual physical is coming up. Based on recent readings, I’m expecting that blood pressure will be at least borderline high.
To avoid a lecture from my doctor (and also, of course, to improve my health), I was thinking I might try to reduce sodium intake to get my numbers down. Will cutting the salt shaker at meals do the trick?
Dr. Prescott Prescribes
For most people, a typical low-salt diet won’t move the blood pressure needle much, if at all. Reducing sodium might help if you can get it to extremely low levels, but even that approach is iffy.
First, it’s quite hard to achieve and maintain ultra-low sodium levels. And because the link between salt intake and blood pressure levels varies by individual, this approach may not significantly impact blood pressure for a lot of people.
That said, there’s nothing wrong with trying to manage your sodium intake, especially if you may be taking in more than the recommended allowance of 2,300 milligrams a day. (Obviously, you won’t know this off the top of your head, but you can probably get a good guesstimate if you carefully track your diet for a day or two.)
Eliminating the salt shaker seems like an obvious solution. However, it turns out that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 11% of our sodium comes from salt that’s added at the table or during cooking.
The vast majority of salt in our diets comes from packaged, processed and restaurant food.
So, if you want to bring down your sodium intake, opt for fresh and whole foods. Whenever possible, take a pass on packaged products and fast foods.
Regardless, when you visit your doctor, listen to what he or she recommends when it comes to managing your blood pressure. For some, that could mean adding exercise and changing diets. It could also mean medication.
There are a host of first-line therapies. Most patients tolerate them well, and lowering your blood pressure represents one of the best defenses against heart disease.