Background: Stroke is directly related to blood pressure and treatment trials in older hypertensive individuals show a reduction in strokes. However, the majority of strokes occur in normotensive individuals in whom no attempt is made to lower blood pressure. We compared the effects of modest salt restriction on blood pressure in older hypertensive and normotensive people.
Methods: 47 untreated elderly people (24 men, age range 60-78 years; blood-pressure range 123-205 mm Hg systolic and 64-112 mm Hg diastolic) completed a 2-month double-blind randomised placebo-controlled crossover study of modest salt restriction with slow sodium and placebo to give a salt intake of either 10 g (equivalent to the normal amount for the UK population) or 5 g.
Findings: On the normal salt intake for the UK population, supine blood pressure was 163/90 (SD 21/10) mm Hg with urinary sodium excretion of 177 (49) mmol/day. With modest sodium restriction, blood pressure fell to 156/87 (22/9) mm Hg (p < 0.001/0.004) with a urinary sodium excretion of 94 (50) mmol/day. A reduction in sodium intake of 83 mmol/day was associated with a reduction of 7.2/3.2 mm Hg. There was no significant difference in the blood-pressure fall between 18 normotensive and 29 hypertensive participants (8.2/3.9 vs 6.6/2.7 mm Hg).
Interpretation: A modest reduction in salt intake leads to a fall in blood pressure in both normotensive and hypertensive older people similar to that in outcome trials of thiazide-based treatment. Since the majority of strokes in older people occur below the current definition of hypertension, our results have important implications for the prevention of stroke.