What You Need to Know About Salt Substitutes and Hypertension

What You Need to Know About Salt Substitutes and Hypertension, Salt’s role in hypertension

The American Heart Association estimates that 103 million adults in the United States suffer from hypertension. And high blood pressure contributes to cardiovascular disease, which is the leading cause of death. And yet, as deadly as high blood pressure is, in many cases it may be  controlled with lifestyle changes.

May is National High Blood Pressure Education Month, so we’d like to highlight one of the major contributors to hypertension -- too much sodium. Processed snacks, fast food, and deli meats, to name a few foods, pack a load of sodium. And for many of our patients with high blood pressure, Dr. Fink recommends cutting back on sodium as part of a treatment plan.  

Making modifications to your daily diet can work wonders. The DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) introduces healthy eating by promoting more fruits and vegetables, lean meats, healthy fats, and less sodium and sugar. Research shows that people with hypertension who follow the DASH diet can see their blood pressure numbers begin to fall after just two weeks.

Salt’s role in hypertension

Sodium chloride, aka table salt, can be a roadblock to lowering your blood pressure. If your blood pressure is 130/80 or higher, shaking the salt habit may make a real difference. Too much salt in your diet causes you to retain fluid, making it harder for your heart to pump blood through your body, leading to high blood pressure. Reducing your intake of sodium chloride to 1,500 milligrams a day may help bring down your blood pressure.

GIving up salt, or even cutting back, isn’t easy. Fortunately there are salt substitutes that can help.

What are salt substitutes?

Most “salt substitutes” are made of potassium chloride, which tastes much like sodium chloride. In fact, for many people they’re similar enough in flavor that they find it easy to switch.

But if the taste of the potassium chloride doesn’t work for you, there are so-called “lite” salt replacements. They’re often labeled “low sodium” and contain a blend of sodium chloride and potassium chloride. These salt substitutes have a more salty taste, yet have less sodium chloride than traditional table salt. Bear in mind, however, that these lite salt replacements do contain a degree of sodium chloride and you need to go easy.

Caution: Salt substitutes are dangerous for some people

As noted, salt substitutes contain potassium, which, for most people will help further to lower blood pressure. However, some people need to avoid the extra potassium found in salt substitutes. Anyone who has kidney disease or is on certain hypertension medications should not increase their potassium intake unless it’s approved by Dr. Fink.

Embrace a flavor adventure

If you can’t use salt substitutes, or don’t like them, you can create flavor-rich foods with herbs and spices. There are many salt-free blends that take your tastebuds up a notch. You can find them already made, or come up with your own.

Try herbs like rosemary, thyme, onion powder, garlic powder, parsley, cilantro, sage, and celery seed. A squeeze of lemon or lime on some foods can provide that extra zip you need without the extra sodium.

To get your blood pressure checked and find out if a salt substitute is OK for you, come in to see Dr. Fink. Contact our office in Tarzana, California to schedule a visit.

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