Salt Sensitivity Greater Risk for High Blood Pressure in Women

Adults following a “typical American diet” are estimated to consume about 4,000 to 5,000 milligrams (mg) of sodium a day.  The majority of this sodium comes from the processed foods we eat everyday.  The current recommendations state that adults should only be eating 2,400 mg of sodium a day (that’s about a teaspoon of salt per day) and people with high blood pressure should have less than 2,000 mg of sodium a day.  Too much salt/sodium in our diet can lead to high blood pressure.

Some people are more “salt sensitive” meaning that salt/sodium in their diets is more likely to cause high blood pressure.  Studies have shown that African Americans and postmenopausal women are more prone to salt sensitivity.  A new study performed by Dr Pollock just published in the journal Hypertension suggests that female hormones may actually be related to the increased risk of high blood pressure with high salt intake in postmenopausal women.  This is an area that needs further investigation.

We recommend that both men and women (of all ages) examine the amount of salt/sodium they are consuming.  Women should not wait until they reach menopause to start cutting back on salt because we know salt is an “acquired” taste and it takes time to cut back on your salt intake.  If you were to stop adding salt and eating salty foods suddenly everything is going to taste bland. Gradual changes are best – start by removing the salt shaker from the table, stop adding salt to foods when cooking, try experimenting with other spices to add flavor to your foods, use salt substitutes that have potassium instead of sodium listed in the ingredients (potassium has been shown to help lower blood pressure), and start reading food labels.  If you want to follow a diet that has only 2,400 mg of sodium per day try to have 800 mg of sodium per meal.  It takes time for your taste buds to adjust.  I was a salt fanatic for years and recently had to cut back on my sodium intake – and I did it gradually.  Now if I eat something with alot of salt in it I don’t enjoy it – so my tastebuds have adjusted.  Remember make small gradual changes….


2 Responses to Salt Sensitivity Greater Risk for High Blood Pressure in Women

  1. naturalgal says:

    How do you know if you are “salt sensitive” is there a test?

  2. heartstrong says:

    Unfortunately there is no official test for “salt sensitivity” – most studies have people keep a diary of their food (sodium) intake and monitor their blood pressures (sometimes 24 hour BP monitors can be used) and then gradually decrease your salt intake over several weeks while continuing to monitor BP changes. People with “salt sensitivity” will have decreases in their BP as they decrease their salt intake. Just an FYI – from my clinical practice I usually find when someone has a high salt meal the next day we see their blood pressure elevated.

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