Salt, Hypertension and the Way Forward

Salt Hypertension and the Way ForwardFor some people, too much of a good thing isn’t always good… and apparently too little isn’t either!  That is one of the conclusions of an Institute of Medicine (IOM) 2013 review of sodium consumption and health effects.  But don’t go telling your patients to return their salt shakers to the tables just yet!  The committee concluded that certain populations, particularly diabetics and those with chronic kidney disease or congestive heart failure, could suffer adverse health effects when on a low sodium diet. Evidence concerning other high risk cardiovascular disease (CVD) groups, notably African Americans and those 51 and older, is inconclusive at best. Still the IOM upheld prevailing wisdom that most people will benefit from lowering their salt intake and that high blood pressure remains a reliable biomarker for CVD. The IOM is expected to continue to play a significant role in reviewing and helping to establish standards for American dietary intakes.

However, salt is not the only culprit when it comes to high blood pressure.  In the majority of cases the etiology can be traced in fact to a combination of factors, at best, or totally unknown, at worst.  Hypertension does increase dramatically with age, affecting three quarters of those over 75.  Baroreceptors in our blood vessels, generally effective in regulating pressure, seem unable to cope with fluctuations as we grow older.  This month, Klas Pettersen and his group at the Norwegian University of Life Science, put forth a computer model that may explain the how and why of it all.  Simulating arterial stiffening, they then compared their results to actual patient studies and concluded that stiffening is sufficient to explain age-related hypertension.  They further suggest that if a normal baroreflex could be reestablished in elderly patients, their high blood pressure could become a thing of the past.  This is a promising and intriguing line of research for scientists to pursue.

May is National High Blood Pressure Month, and all healthcare professionals need to spread awareness about the importance of monitoring blood pressure and reducing sodium in our diets.  If you are a Cardiovascular or Geriatric NP, RN or Nurse Manager, you have an even greater incentive to educate others about this silent killer.  Want to work with these high risk populations?  Call Centra at 800 535 0076.

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