Swapping table salt for potassium substitute lowers blood pressure

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People over the age of 55 may be most at risk for the effects of high blood pressure – and may benefit most from switching to lower-sodium alternatives.

Christo-Gotthard Hunner/Shutterstock

Replacing regular table salt with a potassium-rich alternative has been shown to lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of cardiovascular events, such as heart attack and stroke, in people who are over 55 and living in care homes. have been

Salt contains sodium, which can raise blood pressure. Salt substitutes that replace some sodium with potassium may lower blood pressure, however, few studies have shown their effectiveness among people over 55. Our blood pressure and risk of cardiovascular events increase with age, so these people may benefit most from switching. There is also concern that these alternatives may cause high levels of potassium in the blood, known as hyperkalemia, which can lead to serious heart problems in some cases.

In a clinical trial involving 1612 people living in 48 care facilities in China, meals were prepared either with regular salt containing 100 percent sodium chloride or with a salt substitute containing 62.5 percent sodium chloride and 25 percent potassium. Potassium Chloride, With Other Flavors. Some participants also ate a low-salt diet in general. Participants were over 55 years old, with an average age of 71.

At the start of the study, participants’ average blood pressure was 137.5/80.5 millimeters of mercury (mmHg), with the higher number representing systolic blood pressure — the force at which your heart pumps blood around your body — and the lower number representing diastolic blood pressure. Showing – resistance to blood flow in blood vessels. An ideal reading is generally considered to be between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg.

About two-thirds of the participants had high blood pressure at the start of the trial.

Over two years, people living in facilities where the potassium-enriched salt substitute was offered saw an average reduction of 7.1mmHg in systolic blood pressure and 1.9mmHg in diastolic pressure, compared to the regular salt group.

“That’s an impressive drop in blood pressure—it’s at least what you’d expect to get if all you did was take a [blood pressure-lowering] medicine,” says bruce neal at the George Institute for Global Health in Sydney, Australia, who was part of the research team.

Compared to the regular salt group, the reduction in blood pressure was associated with 1.5 fewer heart attacks, strokes and other cardiovascular events per 100 people in the salt substitute group.

In contrast, no reduction in average blood pressure or the number of cardiovascular events was observed in the group living in facilities that reduced the salt content of the diet. This may be because these participants didn’t like the taste of the low-salt food and so added salt themselves, Neil says.

The researchers also found that while there was an increase in blood potassium levels in the salt substitute group, this was not associated with any safety concerns.

Salt substitutes are only slightly more expensive than regular salt, and most people can’t taste the difference, says Neal.

“If you look at the totality of the evidence, if everyone switched from regular salt to potassium-enriched salt, we could prevent millions of premature strokes and heart attacks around the world every year,” he They say.

Article amended on 14 April 2023

This article has been changed to correct the description of salt consumed by the three groups of participants.


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