Heart and Disease: Don’t Ignore Salt’s Role in Heart Disease

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.


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11 Replies to “Heart and Disease: Don’t Ignore Salt’s Role in Heart Disease”

  1. Dear friends:

    I am agree with Dr. Havas related with salt, fruits and vegetables.
    I am talking by experience, I am 70 years old, I feel great, no problems. Stay away of salty and fatty foods.



  2. Actually, one can go a long way towards engineering more exercise (which can help lead to the other two factors you mention) by making it easier for everyone to walk, cycle, take the bus, climb the stairs and bring regular activity into every day routine.

    As you say, it won’t work for everyone, but it will definitely work for some. And policy change won’t be easy for every city, town and village, but some will try and make progress.

  3. I would like to see a comparison of which fruits and vegetables have the most potassium including raw verses cooked.and the best methods of cooking to keep from losing the most potassium.

  4. I have cut my salt intake. On the rare times I do eat out the sodium levels are so high that even healthy options have a full day more of salt
    How can we get the salt out I’m these situation? I have tried special request before arriving
    Something to think about and work toward.

  5. Many years ago a friend told me to look at a frozen dinner and how much sodium is in them. I did and was just floored!! Only on a very rare occasion (cause I’m out where I don’t have too much control) do I eat a frozen dinner product. Other than that, I stay away from any frozen/processed products. They are just scary!!!!

  6. The grey font on the bright green background is very hard to read.
    I have not had problems reading any other site.

    1. Sharon, this seems to be a problem with older versions of Internet Explorer. If you are able to update your browser or use a different one, it should appear normal. Sorry for the inconvenience!

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