People who experience a jump in blood pressure when they consume salt are at increased risk of dying from heart disease, according to a study published in the Feb. 16, 2001 supplemental issue of Hypertension, a journal of the American Heart Association.
The study's findings highlight the potential effects of dietary salt on long-term health. While not all hypertensive people are salt-sensitive and not all salt-sensitive people are hypertensive, salt-sensitive individuals with normal to high blood pressure are at increased risk of death when they consume lots of salt.
Researchers analyzed medical data from about 600 people aged 18 to 80. The initial analysis showed that nearly 40% of the group had high blood pressure and 50% were salt sensitive. About 21% died of cardiovascular or other causes during the 25-year study. Individuals who were deemed salt sensitive and initially had normal blood pressure were just as likely to have died as those with high blood pressure.
The researchers estimate that 26% of Americans with normal blood pressure and about 58% of those with high blood pressure may be salt sensitive. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to test for salt sensitivity. One method used involves administering a saline solution followed by a diuretic and noting if blood pressure drops more than 10mm.
On average, only 10% of dietary sodium comes from salt added to food at the table. Therefore, beyond eliminating salt from the table, the researchers recommend reducing preserved and processed food consumption and avoiding the addition of excessive salt to food being prepared at home. They advise reducing daily salt intake to 2,400mg (slightly more than 1 tsp). People should check food labels and watch out for high sodium items, including such processed foods as luncheon meats, prepared cheeses, canned vegetables, and baked products.