Eating a healthy diet doesn’t counteract the effects eating too much salt has on your blood pressure, says a new study published in the journal Hypertension.
Researchers from several institutions, including Imperial College London and Northwestern University, analyzed the diets of more than 4,000 people. The results found that people who ate higher amounts of salt had higher blood pressure regardless of whether or not they ate an overall healthy diet.
Past studies have suggested that a diet high in fruits and vegetables kept blood pressure in check due to the heart-healthy vitamins and minerals they contain. But while they do seem to lower blood pressure, the new study found they don’t counteract the effects of a diet high in salt.
The study tracked the diets of 4,680 people, aged 40-59, from the United States, U.K., Japan, and China. The volunteers were monitored over four days. Two urine samples were taken from each participant during the period as well as their height, weight, and blood pressure.
The researchers anaylzed the amounts of sodium and potassium in the urine samples. Sodium is the main component of salt, while potassium, which is found in green leafy vegetables, has been linked to lower blood pressure.
The team also assessed the volunteers’ intake of over 80 nutrients that are believed to help lower blood pressure, including vitamin C, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids. Many of these nutrients are found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
The researchers found a connection between high blood pressure and higher salt intake, even in those who ate a healthy diet containing a high amount of potassium and other nutrients. The more salt a person ate, the higher their blood pressure.
“We currently have a global epidemic of high salt intake — and high blood pressure,” said Dr. Queenie Chan of Imperial College London. “This research shows there are no cheats when it comes to reducing blood pressure. Having a low salt diet is key — even if your diet is otherwise healthy and balanced.”
About 75 million Americans have high blood pressure — 32 percent or roughly 1 in 3. Almost as many have prehypertension, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 20 percent don’t even realize they have high blood pressure.
Hypertension is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke, which are the leading causes of death in the United States.
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