That study, done at St. George's University of London in England, had 169 participants, all of whom had moderately high blood pressure. After reducing their salt intake from 9.7 grams a day to 6.5 grams a day, the average reduction in a six-week period was 4.8 points in systolic pressure and 2.2 points in diastolic pressure.
Both studies emphasize the importance of controlling salt intake to keep blood pressure at safe levels, said Dr. Martha Daviglus, a professor of preventive medicine and medicine at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago and a spokeswoman for the American Heart Association.
Between 20 percent and 30 percent of Americans have resistant hypertension, and the emphasis for them has been on drug treatment, Daviglus said. "When a patient comes to a physician's office with hypertension, we start with one drug, then add another," she said. "We often forget about lifestyle interventions because they are so difficult."
The two studies show that attention must be paid to both drug treatment and diet, Daviglus said.
"They give us some hope that by doing a combination of both, we will be able to reach our goal," she said.
For Americans, most salt comes in processed foods, Daviglus and Calhoun said. "It is extremely difficult to avoid high salt intake when you eat these processed foods," Calhoun said.
People have to be aware of the salt content of all the food products they buy, Daviglus said. "I always say to them, 'you have to look at the labels,'" she said. "All these foods are loaded with salt, and we don't realize it -- even ice cream."
The emphasis should be on eating fresh foods, Daviglus said. The heart association provides a list of foods, "how to cook them, what spices to us
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