Harvard Women's Health Watch

By the way, doctor: How much should I limit my salt intake?

Q. If I want to lower my blood pressure, how much salt can I afford to take in?

A. The link between high blood pressure (hypertension) and sodium — in particular, in the form of sodium chloride, or table salt — is well established. The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) study, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, concluded that in adults with mild hypertension, a low-fat, high-fiber, calcium- and potassium-rich diet containing no more than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day (about a teaspoon of table salt) can lower blood pressure as effectively as an antihypertensive drug. Bringing that down to 1,500 mg of sodium per day (about two-thirds of a teaspoon of table salt) was even better.

Sources of salt

According to a study published in the April 28, 2007, British Medical Journal, a low-sodium diet not only reduces blood pressure but also appears to cut the risk for cardiovascular events — such as stroke and heart attack and the chance of death from such causes. Studying long-term results for more than 3,000 participants in two randomized hypertension-prevention trials, researchers found that those who cut their sodium intake to between 2,000 and 2,600 mg per day and continued to watch their salt intake had almost 30% fewer cardiovascular events in the following 10 to 15 years.

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