Are You Salt-Sensitive?

New York, NY
January 20, 1999

You may have heard conflicting reports about whether restricting salt in your diet can help lower your blood pressure if it is elevated, or reduce your risk of developing high blood pressure if it is normal. The reports indicated that too much salt can upset your body's fluid balance, and that can lead to high blood pressure.

In recent years, however, medical scientists have learned that some people are salt- sensitive while others are not, and that salt sensitivity may be determined by your genes. Some day, it may be possible to do a simple test to find out who is genetically salt sensitive, but until then, doctors agree that lowering dietary salt is a good step for most people. That doesn't just mean going easy on the salt shaker. You also need to learn to read food labels to check for the sodium content. An estimated 75 percent of the salt in our diet comes from processed foods and baked goods. Here are some tips to help you lower the amount of salt in your diet:

  • Limit your intake of processed foods, such as cured meats, frozen dinners and canned soups, stews and chili.

  • Limit snack foods such as pretzels, chips, crackers, pickles and olives.

  • Read food labels. Even foods that don't taste salty, such as cookies, cakes, candy and soft drinks, may be high in salt.

  • High blood pressure is a leading cause of complications such as heart disease, strokes and kidney disease. For more information and a free brochure about high blood pressure and your kidneys, contact the National Kidney Foundation at (800) 622-9010.