The fear of salt is associated with the medical dogma that lasted for several decades that salt over consumption would elevate blood pressure. We know that high blood pressure will cause heart attacks and strokes. Over the years governments have been influenced by health associations. These made recommendations to the public lowering salt intake in order to save lives. From a review in the Scientific American (July of 2011) it is clear that several large trials were unable to show that blood pressure was raised as a result of more salt intake. Conversely it could not be shown that blood pressure could be lowered when salt intake was cut.
What needs to also be considered is that low salt diets could actually have potentially serious side effects. When a person cuts salt intake, the body will respond by releasing the enzyme renin and aldosterone. The effect of both is that blood pressure is being increased.
What are known causes of high blood pressure?
- Belonging to the Afro-American population, but also being an African as this study shows.
- Having a family member with high blood pressure
- Age above 35
- Being overweight or obese
- Drinking alcohol excessively
- Women taking the birth control pill and women who are pregnant
- People who eat too many fatty foods
- Refined sugar (table sugar and high fructose corn syrup). Watch this WebMD video.
We know from other studies that the DASH diet will help people to lower blood pressure. This a diet similar to the Mediterranean diet. Quitting smoking, starting to exercise and weight loss in the obese and overweight population are known to lower blood pressure. Cutting down on liquor consumption is also very effective in lowering blood pressure.
The new teaching about what will prevent high blood pressure is not so much salt avoidance, but avoidance of added sugar. In addition you want to make sure, you don’t smoke, you start exercising regularly and avoid eating too many fatty foods. Drink only in moderation or not at all. Keep your body weight within the normal range. The DASH diet will help, if you have high blood pressure. The Mediterranean diet will help avoid developing high blood pressure. Salt sensitive persons from families with a history of high blood pressure or African and Afro-American people are the only ones who need to restrict salt intake.