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

ned as blood pressure over 140/90 mm Hg).

The DASH diet lowered blood pressure at each of the three levels of sodium intake. In addition, lower sodium intake resulted in lower blood pressures for those on both the typical and the DASH diets. This result applied to men, women, African Americans, whites, and those with and without high blood pressure. Neither the DASH diet nor lower levels of sodium caused undesirable effects. In fact, those on a lower sodium diet whether control or DASH had fewer headaches. People with high blood pressure who ate the DASH diet at the lowest sodium level had an average systolic pressure reading 11.5 mm Hg lower than participants eating the control diet at the highest sodium level. The corresponding number for participants who did not have high blood pressure was 7.1 mm Hg systolic pressure.

The combination of eating the DASH diet at a lower sodium level is a significant effect equal to or greater than the result you would expect from treatment with a single hypertension medication, says Dr. Frank Sacks, chair of the DASH-Sodium Steering Committee and Associate Professor of Medicine at Brigham and Womens Hospital and Harvard Medical School. However, the long-term health benefits of the low sodium DASH diet will depend on whether the American public is willing to make long-lasting dietary changes, including choosing lower sodium foods, and whether the food industry makes available a greater number of lower sodium food products, adds Dr. Sacks.

Following the DASH diet at the 1,500 mg of sodium level may prevent the development of high blood pressure and the increase in systolic blood pressure that typically occurs as people age, said Dr. Eva Obarzanek, the NHLBI Project Officer of the DASH-Sodium study. Other longer-term studies suggest that the benefit on blood pressure is likely to persist over the long term as long as people continue following the DASH diet and lower sodium intake, she adds.


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

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