The Salt Connection
  • Eating too much table salt is linked to high blood pressure.
  • Some people are salt sensitive. This means that eating salt has a greater effect on their blood pressure than it does on others who aren't salt sensitive.
  • African Americans, older people, and those who have high blood pressure or diabetes are usually more sensitive to salt.
  • Limiting the salt in your diet may lower your blood pressure if you are salt sensitive.

The chemical name for table salt is sodium chloride. It is often referred to simply as sodium. To maintain normal body functions, you need to consume about 500 milligrams (mg) of sodium each day. But Americans on average eat much more than this. Most average 3,500 to 4,000 mg per day. Eating more sodium than your body needs may cause your blood pressure to rise. Limiting your sodium intake to no more than 2,400 mg per day may help. This is equal to about 1ΒΌ teaspoons of table salt. To get a sense of how much sodium is in some common foods, see How much salt is in there?

Eating too much sodium may have these effects on your body.

  • It may raise your blood pressure.
  • It may increase the amount of fluid that you retain. This may force your heart to work harder.
  • It may put you at risk for osteoporosis. This is particularly true if you are a postmenopausal woman.

Cutting back on the amount of sodium you consume can have these effects on your body.

  • It can lower your blood pressure.
  • It may reduce your need for high blood pressure medicine.
  • It may decrease your risk for heart disease and osteoporosis.

If you are overweight, it is especially important for you to limit the amount of salt that you eat. Some research findings show that people who are overweight absorb and retain greater amounts of sodium. This may increase blood pressure.