Friday, October 17, 2014

How Does Sodium/Salt Contribute To Hypertension?

After explaining the antihypertensive 'take-home' medications along with the importance of DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) to my middle-aged British patient who has just been diagnosed with Primary/Idiopathic Hypertension, he raised one specific question that twisted my brain for a second. He asked, "What is the ideal sodium/salt intake per day?" While I'm pretty certain I've memorized this information four years ago in college, it's nowhere to be found in my memory bank. He then made a follow up question, "Or should I totally avoid sodium as much as possible?"

Cleveland Clinic states that the most ideal amount of sodium we can take each day should not be more than 2,300 mg which is roughly equivalent to 1 teaspoon of salt. And patients who are clinically diagnosed with hypertension, diabetes, chronic kidney disease and those who are of African-American descent and even individuals who aged from 50 years old and above should aim for less than 1,500 mg or 3/4 teaspoon of salt per day. 

While it is essential to maintain the recommended daily intake of salt, completely eliminating its existence is entirely impossible and would only do more harm than good. Moderation is still the key. Remember that Sodium is the major positively charged extracellular ion which plays a significant role in the fluid balance. It is only when there's an excess amount of the needed sodium that it becomes a liability. So how does an excess amount of sodium contribute to high blood pressure or hypertension? Sodium or salt is "hydrophilic"in nature or they're simply "water-loving". It has a strong affinity with water/fluid. So when there's more sodium, the greater the amount of water/fluid it attracts. Increased in the amount of water/fluid increases the fluid volume. Increased in the fluid volume, increases the blood pressure. And persistent elevation of systolic and diastolic blood pressure of more than 140/90 mmHg becomes a condition known as Hypertension.


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