Hypertension has long been associated with the consumption of excess salt. Even though you may consume a balanced or wholesome diet, your blood pressure can be elevated if you do not control your salt intake. How exactly does salt affect your blood pressure? And why do you need to restrict it? We asked Nidhi Dhawan, HOD – Dietetics, Saroj Super Speciality Hospital, New Delhi, for her inputs on the amount of salt that people with hypertension must add to their diet. Here’s her response:
Salt contains sodium, which is essential for life. It maintains the fluid balance in the body, helps send nerve impulses, and affects muscle functioning. However, when the level of sodium in the bloodstream increases more than the amount required by the body, it pulls water into the blood vessels, thereby leading to an increase in the blood volume inside them. The increase in blood flow causes an elevation in blood pressure levels. Further, this puts an additional burden on the heart and the blood vessels. In some people, this may lead to high blood pressure.
Thus, having less sodium in your diet can help you lower or avoid high blood pressure. People with hypertension are recommended to not consume more than 5 gm of salt per day. Table salt must be restricted as much as possible. The adverse effects of salt intake cannot be balanced by augmenting the diet with other nutrients. Sodium is also found in many baked products, which use baking soda or baking powder as a key ingredient. Paying attention to product labels and choosing foods that are labelled sodium-free or with reduced sodium can help you control your salt intake. You can, alternatively, flavour your food with herbs, spices or lemon.
Managing your blood pressure will help you prevent heart diseases or strokes that may result from hypertension.