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Ask the experts: Low blood pressure

Q: "My husband and I both have low blood pressure. Most nutritional advisors advocate that a diet low in salt to reduce the risk of high blood pressure. Do people with low blood pressure need more salt in their diets? I have noticed that in old recipes there was a lot more salt. Has our diet now become too low in salt? Or is the connection between salt and blood pressure not that closely linked?"

Georgina

A: Nutritionist Claire Turnbull responds:

"High blood pressure is a huge concern in New Zealand, as in most of the western world. Factors affecting blood pressure include your family history, the amount of salt in your diet, how much fruit and vege you eat, how active you are, if you are overweight, how much alcohol you have and if you smoke or not.

Low blood pressure is far less common, but it is extremely unlikely to be caused by a lack of salt in your diet. Despite the health warnings, recipe changes and product reformulations, the New Zealand diet has definitely not become too low in salt for most people. As a population we still having twice as much salt as we should! Given than 75-85 per cent of our salt comes from processed foods we often have salt without even realising.

While lower blood pressure is considered good there comes a point when blood pressure can be too low (and potentially dangerous). Symptoms can include dizziness and fainting as well as tiredness, nausea, clamminess and blurred vision. It's important these symptoms are reviewed by a doctor to find the cause and possible remedy, or to advise how best to manage the symptoms.

Although you may not need to be as careful about limiting salt, provided you have no symptoms relating to your low blood pressure, you won't need to deliberately have more salt. Where you do use salt, always choose and iodised salt."

First published: Jun 2009



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