Hypertension / High Blood Pressure and Sodium Intake

Hypertension / High Blood Pressure and Sodium Intake

Normal blood pressure – Systolic <120 mmHg and diastolic <80 mmHg
Elevated blood pressure – Systolic 120 to 129 mmHg and diastolic <80 mmHg


  • Stage 1 – Systolic 130 to 139 mmHg or diastolic 80 to 89 mmHg
  • Stage 2 – Systolic at least 140 mmHg or diastolic at least 90 mmHg

NHANES (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey) data from 2011 to 2014 demonstrated that 46 percent of adults 18 years and older in the United States had hypertension. This translates into 103 million adults.  Age, obesity, lack of physical activity, excess sodium consumption, lack of restful sleep, excess alcohol consumption is some of the risk factors for hypertension. In addition, there are medications like oral contraceptives, Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents, certain antidepressants, over the counter decongestants and weight loss medications that can also increase blood pressure as a side effect.

Lifestyle recommendations that can potentially help with this condition could include, diet, physical activity, sleep, stress reduction techniques and a review of current prescription and over the counter medications. In this newsletter, I will be limiting the discussion to the sodium content of the diet.

The sodium or the salt content in the diet has a direct impact on blood pressure. At present the average American diet has close to 3400 mg of sodium. The recommendation is around 2000 mg, but lesser if you have hypertension, or somewhere close to 1500 mg.  But with a mostly whole food plant-based diet, one can expect to have as little as 500 mg of sodium, and therefore, in mostly plant-based populations, the blood pressure on average is usually lower.

One estimate suggested that if Americans moved to an average intake of 1500 mg/day sodium, it could result in a 25.6 percent overall decrease in blood pressure and an estimated $26.2 billion in health care savings (2).  Another estimate projected that achieving this goal would reduce deaths from cardiovascular disease by anywhere from 500,000 to nearly 1.2 million over the next 10 years (2).

Did you know that top 5 sources of sodium in our diets are commercial breads, chicken, pizza, commercial pasta and cold cut meats?  In addition, prepackaged foods, canned foods, snack foods and cheese also tend to have excess sodium (1).  Adopting a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, beans, lentils, whole grains, nuts and seeds will help with lowering high blood pressure. Especially choosing bright colored vegetables and fruits will help as they are good sources of Potassium and other minerals like magnesium in addition to antioxidants. (3)(4)

1. https://www.cdc.gov/salt/sources.htm

2. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/sodium

3. https://nutritionfacts.org/video/how-to-treat-high-blood-pressure-with-diet/

4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5466938/