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African American Health

Sodium sensitive

03/20/2002

Question:

Is it possible to be "sodium sensitive" thus giving high blood pressure. I have been treated for hp for years and it has never been below 160/100. I cut sodium as much as possible and have been able to cut my meds in half and normal b/p now is 112/75.

Answer:

About half of all people with hypertension are sodium-sensitive. Sodium sensitive means that cutting salt intake from the average American intake to a lower level of intake will drop the blood pressure significantly.

The average daily sodium intake in the United States is about 3.2 to 4.0 grams (which corresponds to 8 to 10 grams of salt). A moderate sodium restriction to 2.7 gm per day (corresponding to 7 gm of salt per day) has been found to reduce blood pressure on average by 8 mm Hg systolic (the upper number). More severe salt restriction can cause even greater drops in blood pressure.

However, not all people will drop their blood pressure with salt restriction, and there is disagreement whether salt restriction should be recommended for everyone. Those most likely to be salt-sensitive are the elderly, diabetics and African Americans.

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Response by:

Max C Reif, MD Max C Reif, MD
Professor of Medicine
Director of Hypertension Section
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati