ZocdocAnswersIs a low sodium diet really necessary?

Question

Is a low sodium diet really necessary?

I have been struggling with high blood pressure for as long as I can remember, and I do not want it to lead to more advanced issues, like a heart attack or a stroke. My doctor put me on medication for a little while, and I also tried to lose a few pounds, hoping that would be enough to push the numbers down. However, that did not work as well as I hoped, and now he is suggesting that I go on a low sodium diet.I travel a lot, so cutting back on sodium is going to be very hard. Is it really all that helpful? Do you think it is necessary? What are some other options that I may be able to use in place of this new diet to get the same results? I really do not think I can change my lifestyle enough to adhere to his guidelines.

Answer

Hypertension (the medical term for high blood pressure) is one of the most serious medical conditions affecting billions of people worldwide. There are many therapies to help combat hypertension, and dietary changes are certainly one often considered. I would strongly recommend you discuss this concern with your doctor. If needed a hypertension specialist can help. To answer your question -- a low sodium diet is very effective in lowering blood pressure. Sodium (a key component of salt) is found throughout the body. When the kidneys see excess salt, they secrete hormones to help the body retain water (to keep the same concerntration of sodium). It is part of this response that results in high blood pressure. Lowering the salt in your diet can certainly lower blood pressure. Often processed foods have a horrendous amount of sodium (hot dogs, potato chips, lunch meats) and these can be very harmful. There are specific diets that are low in sodium that have been proven to help (look online for the "DASH" diet). Now you ask if it is necessary. Well, there are medications that can be used to help battle hypertension. But all medications have side effects, so the natural way of losing weight and adjusting your diet is very much preferred. Please discuss this issue with your doctor. Good luck!

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