Salt and Hypertension

The relationship between salt and hypertension varies based on a person's salt sensitivity

The co-relation between salt and hypertension is common knowledge. Blood Pressure Canada has estimated that one million Canadians have high blood pressure because of excess sodium in their diets.

Sodium intake is a known factor contributing to the development of high blood pressure, with its influence ranging based on the quantity consumed in a given time, the present condition of the kidneys, and whether or not someone is “salt-sensitive”. It is important to know the recommended sodium intake.

Studies by the American National Institutes of Health have shown that certain individuals are especially sensitive to salt and hypertension is therefore more likely to develop.

For those who are salt sensitive, there is a biological reaction occurring within the body that results in the development of high blood pressure.

The University of Maryland found that salt and hypertension's relationship is rooted in the production of the hormone ouabain. Taking in too much salt has been shown to stimulate the gland and produce higher quantities of ouabain than normal.

This hormone affects systems in each cell which regularly removes excess sodium from artery walls. There is a second system that replaces sodium into calcium. High levels of ouabain disables the first system, leading to more sodium being replaced with more calcium.

Both calcium and sodium then accumulate within the arteries, restricting blood flow and ultimately leading to hypertension. Eat too much salt and hypertension develops due to the systems regulating sodium and calcium shutting down.

Again, this often only happens to individuals who are salt sensitive, and it is difficult to determine whether or not someone will have such a reaction to sodium. Though it is debatable whether or not people may eat excessive levels of salt and hypertension would result, it is clear that anyone with high blood pressure should restrict their sodium intake.

The relationship between salt and hypertension has only been consistently demonstrated in people already with high blood pressure, so you should talk to your doctor if you are considering restricting your sodium intake.