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Sodium and High Blood Pressure


Topic Overview

Eating a lot of sodium (salt) is linked with high blood pressure.

Reducing salt in the diet can prevent high blood pressure in those at risk for the disease and can help control high blood pressure in elderly people.

African Americans, older adults, and people with diabetes may benefit most from lowering their dietary sodium intake.

People who are more sensitive to sodium include:

  • People with kidney disease.
  • People of African descent.
  • People with a family history of high blood pressure.
  • People over age 50.

To reduce salt and sodium in your diet:

  • Eat less than 2.3 g (2,300 mg) of sodium a day (approximately 1 teaspoon of salt).
  • Eat a diet that includes plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, grains, and legumes.
  • Limit fast foods. They often contain large amounts of salt.
  • When eating out, choose foods carefully to limit salt. For tips on eating out, see:
  • Check food labels for sodium.
    • Look for products that say "low sodium," which must contain less than 140 mg of sodium in a serving.
    • Sodium can have different names. Be sure to check for hidden salt in food labels.
  • Limit processed foods. They are the biggest source of salt in our food. Examples include:
    • Canned or instant soups and sauce mixes.
    • Canned or frozen entrees.
    • Salty or smoked meats, such as bologna, hot dogs, lunch meats, sausage, bacon, smoked salmon, and tuna packed with salt (includes most water-packed tuna).
    • Snack items like chips, pretzels, salted popcorn, salted nuts, and crackers.
    • Pickled foods.
    • Canned vegetables.
    • Cheeses, especially processed types.
  • Limit how much salt you add at the table.
  • Limit salt and sodium in your cooking. Try these tips:
    • Prepare foods with sodium-free spices and herbs, such as basil, bay leaves, curry, garlic, ginger, lemon, mint, oregano, pepper, rosemary, and thyme.
    • Try one new herb or spice in a recipe each week.
    • Cut in half the salt called for in recipes.
    • Add little or no salt to the food on your plate.
    • Eat high-salt foods in moderation, and use low-salt or salt-free products regularly.
    • Try a low-salt cookbook for other seasoning ideas.
    • Do not drink softened water (it contains added sodium).

Related Information

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerRhonda O'Brien, MS, RD, CDE - Certified Diabetes Educator
Last RevisedApril 5, 2011

eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise

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