Should I follow a low-salt diet, even though my blood pressure is normal?

Many people do not suffer high blood pressure when they eat salt, and severe salt restriction can harm you. Low salt levels can raise blood pressure by causing the adrenal glands to release large amounts of aldosterone and the kidneys to release renin, and these hormones constrict arteries. Athletes who do not take in enough salt can suffer severe fatigue, and muscle damage and cramps.

A diet that is based primarily on plants (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and other seeds) is naturally low in salt, even if you cook with salt or add salt at the table. Animal products are high in sodium, and processed foods and restaurant meals contribute almost 80 percent of the salt in the American diet. If you eat healthfully, exercise regularly and do not have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes or other risk factors for heart attacks and strokes, there is little evidence that you will benefit from restricting salt. Future research may change this recommendation.

Checked 10/26/05

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