One quarter of the adult population of the United States has high blood pressure. In most of these people blood pressure is not under control despite medication. Most patients are taking 2, 3, or 4 blood pressure medications and are subject to all the incident side effects: weakness, impotence or loss of libido, muscle cramps, rash, cough, high blood sugar and others.

Most people with high blood pressure have what is called “essential hypertension”, as if it were something they needed. It is intended to mean we do not know what causes it. We do know. Essential hypertension has two causes: salt and overweight.

In areas of the world where salt intake is low, primitive areas, there is no such thing as essential hypertension and there is no age-related hypertension. We only require about 2 grams of salt a day and we eat at least five times that amount, often a lot more. Our food is loaded with salt and it is added before we buy it. Only 5% of the salt in food is added during cooking.

With all the talk about reducing fat, eliminating trans fats and reducing sugar, there has been little effort to reduce our excessive salt habit.

I recommend you start to read food labels for their salt content. Salt will be listed as sodium. One mg of sodium represents 2.5 mg of salt. Thus your daily intake of sodium should be less than 1000 mg (one gram). If the label indicates that one serving of the product contains more than 100 mg of sodium, I suggest you do not buy it, or just eat half as much. You will be surprise, if not shocked by what you see. Items such as sausage and other lunch meats, and cheese will be out of the question. Note that an 8 ounce serving of milk contains 150 mg of sodium. One slice of bread contains about 80 mg of sodium.

Restaurants perhaps without exception salt their foods heavily. This includes not only fast food restaurants, but also expensive ones. Soups especially are laden with salt. Chinese and Mexican restaurants offer perhaps the most heavily salted preparations.

There is no salt in fruits and vegetables provided they are fresh and not processed. Fruits and vegetables, in fact, are loaded with potassium and magnesium, which have the effect of lowering blood pressure. Thus, the more fruits and vegetables you eat, the lower your blood pressure will go.

Add up the sodium in the foods you eat. Aim toward less than one gram of sodium per day. You will see your blood pressure go down, as well as your weight, because foods high in salt are often calorically dense. Make sure the nuts you eat are also unsalted, and the popcorn. You will get used to eating less salt and eventually find heavily salted foods to be distasteful.

Exercise reduces blood pressure. Weight loss lowers blood pressure. Supplements including potassium, magnesium, omega 3 fatty acids (fish oils), and CoQ10 reduce blood pressure. Better sleep quality, stress reduction, and treatment of sleep apnea also lower blood pressure.

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