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For Lower Blood Pressure, Kids Should Skip the Salt

Parents: when buying or preparing foods for your children, you may want to hold the salt. New research suggests that too much salt can raise children’s blood pressure, putting them at risk for heart disease later in life.

In adults, eating too much salt can contribute to high blood pressure. People who have higher blood pressure in their younger years are more likely to develop hypertension as they age, so identifying lifestyle habits that contribute to high blood pressure in youth is important.

The National Diet and Nutritional Survey for young people studied 1,658 kids from the United Kingdom, between ages 4 and 18. To investigate the relationship between salt intake and blood pressure, researchers took the children’s blood pressures and estimated the amount of salt that they ate in a day based on a seven-day dietary record. Only the salt found in foods was included; they did not include salt added during cooking or at the table.

At age 4, about 5 grams of salt per day was the average intake; by age 18, it was 7 grams per day. At any given age, increased salt intake was associated with a rise in systolic blood pressure (the top number in a blood pressure reading) and increased pulse pressure—a marker for cardiovascular disease.

The study’s results suggest that eating less salt could help lower blood pressure. By reducing salt consumption by 1 gram per day, systolic blood pressure could fall by 0.4 mm Hg. While this might not seem like a big drop, the researchers said, “A small decrease in blood pressure in children and adolescents would have major public health implications in terms of preventing hypertension and therefore cardiovascular disease in the future.”

(He FJ, Marrero NM and MacGregor GA. “Salt and blood pressure in children and adolescents.” J Hum Hypertens 2008; 22: 4–11)

 


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