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For Better Blood Pressure, Take Your Food With a Grain of Salt

February 19, 2013 aboutbloodpressure Food and Diet

You may have heard that salt in your diet leads to high blood pressure. The truth is that the relationship between salt and your blood pressure is a little more complicated.

For example:

  • You need some salt in your diet
  • Cutting back on salt doesn’t affect everyone’s blood pressure equally.
  • And if you do need to cut back on salt, setting your salt shaker in your pantry isn’t necessarily the best place to start.

Because the role of salt is so important in maintaining a healthy blood pressure, it’s wise to learn more about how to get the right amount in your diet.

Sodium, Salt, and Your Body

Sodium is important for keeping your body functioning. For example, it helps maintain your normal fluid balance, and it helps your muscles and nerves work properly. It’s the job of your kidneys to control the amount of sodium in your body; when sodium gets too high, your kidneys should get rid of the extra by letting it escape in your urine.

However, as people consume more salt – known chemically as sodium chloride – in general, their blood pressure goes up. On average, people who eat more salt have higher blood pressure. During a study in which subjects ate a diet containing 1,500, 2,500, or 3,300 milligrams of sodium daily, the researchers found that reduced sodium intake lowered blood pressure in men, women, African Americans, and people of other races. It also lowered blood pressure in people who didn’t have high blood pressure, also called hypertension.

However, not everyone’s blood pressure responds the same way to changes in sodium intake. Reducing dietary sodium tends to have a bigger effect in people with hypertension, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease; people who are middle-aged and older; and African Americans.

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