Cutting excess salt isn’t the only way to lower blood pressure. Getting more potassium also helps, and Americans average far less than the 4,700 mg daily target. Eating a DASH diet—which is rich in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy foods— knocks down blood pressure. So does staying trim, daily exercise, and limiting alcohol to no more than two drinks a day (for men) or one drink a day (for women).
“All of those factors affect blood pressure,” says physician Stephen Havas, a former Vice President of Science, Quality, and Public Health at the American Medical Association. “I don’t think anyone would argue that you should only work on one front.” But cutting salt is still key.
Sometimes, he adds, other factors are “a smokescreen that the food industry throws out to confuse everybody.” In fact, it may be easier to change the population’s salt intake than anything else.
“We can’t get people to lose weight and maintain the weight loss over time, though we should try because some people will do it,” notes Havas. “We can’t get people to exercise regularly and maintain it over time, though it’s worth trying because some people will do it.”
And it’s not easy to get people to eat more fruits and vegetables.
In contrast, the government can stop companies from dumping so much salt into packaged and restaurant foods. “Getting sodium out of the food supply is the easiest because you can engineer that,” explains Havas. “You can’t engineer more fruits and vegetables, greater weight loss, and more exercise.”
Source: JAMA 288: 1882, 2002.
Other relevant links:
- How consuming triglycerides leads to plaque build-up. See: Why are Triglycerides Linked to Heart and Disease?
- Studies continue to link red meat with a shorter life. See: Eat Less Red Meat, Live Longer
- Do you want to know the best diet for avoiding heart disease? See: How to Diet – Best Menu Planning Guide for a Heart-Healthy Diet