Reducing sodium leads to substantial drop in blood pressure, finds NHLBI study

Sodium reduction combined with either a typical U.S. diet or the DASH diet, which is rich in vegetables, fruit, and low-fat dairy products and low in total and saturated fat, substantially lowered blood pressure in persons with high blood pressure and persons with higher than optimal blood pressure, according to the results of a study supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health.

The DASH-Sodium study found that the lowest blood pressure levels were in those eating sodium levels much lower than the currently recommended maximum of 2,400 milligrams a day while also eating the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet. In both the DASH diet and a typical American diet, the lower the sodium, the lower the blood pressure. The combination of following the DASH diet at the lower sodium level reduced blood pressure more than either the DASH diet or lower sodium intake alone.

These findings, which are published in the January 4 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, were initially reported in May 2000 at the annual meeting of the American Society of Hypertension.

The DASH-Sodium study lays to rest the long-standing controversy over whether sodium reduction lowers blood pressure in people who do not have hypertension, more commonly called high blood pressure. The study also has important implications for the treatment of hypertension, which affects almost 50 million people in this country, says NHLBI Director Dr. Claude Lenfant.

These results challenge Americans to eat the DASH diet and to reduce sodium consumption and the food industry to reduce sodium levels in foods. Meeting this challenge, along with other lifestyle changes, could prevent the rise of blood pressure with age and allow patients to control their hypertension with fewer or even no drugs, adds Dr. Lenfant.

In the DASH-Sodium study, 412 people were randomly assigned to eat

Contact: NHLBI Communications Office
NIH/National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

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