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Aug 14, 2014 05:55 AM EDT

Moderate Intake of Salt Effective against High Blood Pressure, Study

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Moderate level of salt intake is the most effective way of lowering blood pressure, according to the Prospective Urban & Rural Epidemiological (PURE) study led by the Population Health Research Institute, the McMaster University and the Hamilton Health Sciences.

The researchers said that salt consumption at higher levels (above 5 grams per day) is associated with serious health risk (heart attack, heart failure and stroke), especially among adults aged 55 years or above, who already suffer from high blood pressure.

Low sodium intake (below 3 grams of sodium) does lower blood pressure modestly compared to moderate (or average) intake. However, the study has found complications arising from lower levels of salt in the food as well including elevations of certain hormones that heightens the risk of death and cardiovascular diseases.

"While there has been much focus on reducing salt in the diet, an important and ignored approach to lowering blood pressure is increasing the amount of potassium consumed. A balanced approach is what is likely to have the greatest benefit in lowering blood pressure," Andrew Mente, the lead author of one report and an assistant professor of clinical epidemiology and biostatistics, said in a press release. "This can be achieved by moderation in salt intake, combined with eating lots of fruits and vegetables."

For the study, the researchers followed over 100,000 people for nearly four years and measured sodium and potassium intake to determine its influence on blood pressure, death rate, heart disease and strokes.

The researchers found that lowest risk of death and cardiovascular rates was witnessed in those who consumed moderate amounts of sodium, three to six grams per day.

Salim Yusuf - the Principal Investigator of the global PURE study, senior author and Director of the Population Health Research Institute - said that salt reduction should be mainly targeted at those with high blood pressure and salt consumption.

The finding is published in the New England Journal of Medicine.         

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