Q&A: Salt Sensitivity


There is no test that will actually check whether you are salt sensitive—the only way to find out if your blood pressure responds to sodium is by changing the amount of sodium you consume.

Q. Is it true that salt only increases the risk of high blood pressure if you are “salt sensitive?”

A. Salt has been linked to high blood pressure—a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke—for decades. With that in mind, government experts recommend that Americans lower their salt intake to 2,300 milligrams (mg) or less per day, with certain subgroups (including people who have high blood pressure, diabetes, and/or kidney disease) advised to keep it at 1,500 mg or less. That said, some experts argue that most people aren’t sensitive to salt’s blood pressure-raising effects, and there is evidence that people with higher serum sodium levels (the amount of sodium in the bloodstream) aren’t any more likely to develop high blood pressure. However, this doesn’t mean that some people who have high blood pressure shouldn’t try to reduce their salt intake, particularly since switching to a low-sodium diet (the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, or DASH, diet) has been shown to achieve a drop in blood pressure similar to that attained with anti-hypertensive medication. Moreover, there is no test that will actually check whether you are salt sensitive—the only way to find out if your blood pressure responds to sodium is by changing the amount of sodium you consume.

— Bruce Darrow, Cardiology

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