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Swapping for a salt substitute can significantly reduce the risk of high blood pressure, research suggests

People who reduce the amount of salt in their diet by using a salt substitute can significantly reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure, suggests a study published Monday.

The report, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, analyzed data from hundreds of men and women, aged 55 and older, who were in elderly care facilities in China.

The data came from a larger earlier study, called DECIDE-Salt, which included 1,612 participants. For the new analysis, researchers focused on 157 women and 454 men who had healthy blood pressure and were given food with either the usual amount of salt or a salt substitute.

Researchers found that reducing salt by more than a third by replacing another mineral supplement – ​​salty-tasting potassium chloride – along with other flavorings such as mushrooms, seaweed and lemon, protected against high blood pressure over a two-year period.

Dr. Yangfeng Wu, lead author of the study and executive director of the Clinical Research Institute of Peking University in Beijing, said that although the study was conducted in China, the results should apply to people in other countries, including the United States. replace salt with a substitute, whether they have hypertension or not, Wu said.

Uncontrolled high blood pressure can increase the risk of many chronic diseases, including heart and kidney disease, diabetes, and dementia.

Most Americans consume too much salt, about 3,500 milligrams per day, according to the American Heart Association. Currently, the Food and Drug Administration recommends that healthy adults consume no more than 2,300 mg (about half a teaspoon) of salt per day.

Potassium chloride, which combines the essential supplement potassium with chloride, tastes and acts like table salt without adding harmful sodium to the diet. The recommended daily intake of potassium for people 19 years and older is 3,400 mg (about two-thirds of a teaspoon) for men and 2,600 mg (about half a teaspoon) for the women.

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Previous studies have shown that salt substitutes can lower blood pressure – systolic in particular – in people with hypertension, Wu said. “The present study extended the effect of salt substitutes to people with high blood pressure. normal blood pressure,” Wu said.

Systolic – the highest number in a blood pressure measurement – ​​indicates the amount of pressure in the arteries as the heart contracts and pumps blood around the body. Diastolic – the bottom number – is the pressure in the arteries between heartbeats.

“High blood pressure is one of the leading contributors to deaths worldwide,” said Dr. Deepak Gupta, associate professor of medicine in the division of cardiovascular medicine at Vanderbilt Medical Center. “Diet is clearly a contributor,” he said.

Gupta, who was not involved in the study, said the salt substitute helped by reducing the amount of table salt, sodium chloride, consumed daily and adding potassium.

“Americans in general have low potassium in their diet,” Gupta said. “Eating a diet enriched with potassium, even if nothing is done on the sodium side, is likely to have an impact on lowering blood pressure.”

The new study used a particular type of substitute, but in the United States it is possible to purchase salt substitutes that completely or partially replace salt.

It can be difficult for people to reduce their salt intake long-term unless they find a satisfactory substitute, said Dr. George Dangas, professor of medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine and chief of cardiology at Mount Sinai. Queens, who did not participate in the study. the new research.

“We live in a very salt-rich environment,” Dangas said. “We need to figure out how to make supplements that preserve taste to improve compliance with salt reduction.”

Before increasing their potassium intake, people should talk to their doctor, Dangas warned. Certain conditions, such as kidney disease, can cause high potassium levels, and adding more of the mineral can be dangerous.

The overall message of the study is that “limiting salt in the diet can lower blood pressure, which is very important for heart health,” said Dr. Michelle Bloom, system director of the Cardiovascular Program. oncology at NYU Langone Health and professor. at NYU Grossman Long Island School of Medicine.

“People need to be more aware of labels and really be aware of what they’re putting in their body,” said Bloom, who was not involved in the study.

Even a drop of a few points in blood pressure “can lead to a substantial decrease in the risk of heart attack, heart failure and stroke,” Bloom said. “The typical American diet contains a lot of packaged processed foods that contain a lot of salt that people are often not aware of. There are other ways to satiate this part of a person’s appetite without salt, such as spices and lemon juice.

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