In the March 18, 1998 issue of Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers say reduced sodium intake and weight loss constitute a feasible, effective and safe non-drug approach of treating high blood pressure in older persons.
The American Heart Association regards this study as important because it demonstrates that people can reduce high blood pressure, a risk factor for heart disease and stroke, by eating a heart-healthy diet. These results are particularly relevant because older people, by their age alone, are already at higher risk for heart attack and stroke.
"While you can't control getting older, you can control your diet," says Theodore Kotchen, M.D., a member of the AHA's nutrition committee. "We know that a diet in high in sodium content and obesity each can lead to higher blood pressure, which can in turn lead to heart attack or stroke."
The TONE study -- funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute -- is a controlled trial demonstrating that reducing dietary sodium, and in the obese, weight loss each result in a significant reduction of blood pressure in hypertensive men and women, aged 60-80 years. Further, in the obese, the combined intervention of sodium reduction plus weight loss was more effective than either alone.
About 50,000,000 Americans age 6 and older have high blood pressure. Surveys conducted in the early 1990s showed an estimated 2.2 million Americans age 15 and older had disabilities resulting from high blood pressure.
The AHA recommends that the general public consume no more than 2400 milligrams of sodium per day. This recommendation is based on the evidence of an association between dietary sodium intake and blood pressure derived from a substantial number of epidemiological observations and clinical trials of salt restriction.