Why does salt raise blood pressure in some people? This video explains it. You can protect against this effect by getting enough potassium, something few people do. Other minerals, like calcium and magnesium, are important. It’s also important to maintain a healthy body composition, physical activity routine, to manage stress properly, and avoid excessive alcohol intake.
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This is why salt raises your blood pressure and what to do about it.
Hi. I’m Dr. Chris Masterjohn of chrismasterjohnphd.com, and you’re watching Chris Masterjohn Lite, where the name of the game is “Details? Shmeetails. Just tell me what works!”
And today we’re going to talk about salt and blood pressure. Alicia writes on Facebook, “Why is it that salt raises blood pressure in some people? Why would it be an issue for some and not others? Is it genetics or something else?”
Well, the reason that salt raises blood pressure is actually really simple. Sodium attracts water, and this is the principle where traditionally salt can be used to dry out meat because you salt the surface of the meat and the sodium attracts water, the water comes out of the meat, and the meat dries out.
Kind of the same thing is happening if the sodium comes from your diet and gets into your blood, only it’s drying out your urine by holding on to water in your blood. And as the sodium holds on to water, the blood volume expands, and if you don’t compensate for that in some way by principally getting rid of the sodium, then the expansion of blood volume will contribute to a rise in blood pressure.
Now, why doesn’t everyone get high blood pressure? Well, usually what you do is you just get rid of the sodium. To do that, you have to use potassium. And if you don’t have enough potassium, you’re not going to tolerate the same sodium load without a rise in blood pressure. So what are the chances that you don’t get enough potassium? They’re actually really, really high.
If you look at the RDA, which is just under 5 grams of potassium per day, only 2% of Americans are meeting that. You could say, “Well, do we really need to get the RDA? Maybe the RDA is an overestimate.” But some estimates of our ancestral diets are as high as 12 grams of potassium per day.
If you think about it, the main low-potassium foods are fat, grains, and any kind of refined foods. Whole grains have a moderate amount of potassium, but nowhere near what fruits and vegetables have. So, if you think of ancestral diets in the long, long ago past, we didn’t have agriculture, we weren’t making lots of grains as our main staple, we didn’t have the means to refine foods, so we were eating a lot of fruits and vegetables, a lot of high-potassium foods.
We, in fact, probably needed to get extra sodium in order to get rid of all the potassium in our food because just as we need potassium to get rid of sodium, we need sodium to get rid of potassium.
And so we, like other animals, have this very ancient drive to consume salt because our diets were always high in potassium and were never rich enough in salt. So we have this physiological drive to get more salt, and that’s why we love the taste of salt on our food. That’s why animals go out of their way to seek salt licks when they have the physiological need to.
So today we’re kind of in the opposite situation. We don’t need to go out and find a salt lick. We don’t need to do work to get salt because we have it in our cabinet. We have it loaded in processed foods if we’re eating processed foods.
By contrast, nothing is really forcing us to eat potassium-rich foods when it’s just so, so easy to eat the high-calorie grains and fats instead of the potassium-rich foods. So most people in modern society probably do not consume enough potassium to balance the salt in their diet, and that’s probably why a lot of people are really vulnerable to the rise in blood pressure that occurs from eating salt.
Now, with that said, there are other reasons that your blood pressure could be high. It’s not all about salt and potassium. Maintaining a healthy blood pressure is also dependent on maintaining healthy body composition.
A good physical activity routine, avoiding excess alcohol, and definitely, definitely stress management, and managing intake of other minerals, for example, you need enough calcium and magnesium as well as potassium.
In addition, there could be reasons for high blood pressure that have nothing to do with diet and lifestyle, and so you should never measure—you should never manage your blood pressure exclusively on your own. You should always discuss this with your doctor, especially if your blood pressure is resistant to diet and lifestyle changes.
But if you find that your blood pressure rises in response to salt, I would first and foremost consider looking at the potassium intake that you have, and I’ll talk more in the next video about getting enough potassium in the diet.
But second of all, if any of those things stand out, like you’re overweight, or you’re sedentary, or you’re drinking all the time, or you have major stress issues that you’re not managing properly, or you might have other mineral deficiencies, you need to look at those and address whatever the biggest problem might be in order to manage your blood pressure properly.