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Does salt cause high blood pressure? What you need to know about conflicting studies

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Salt has a bad reputation for being harmful to our health, but a new study suggests that the link between salt and high blood pressure is exaggerated.

According to a new study published in the American Journal of Hypertension, salt intake had no direct relationship to systolic blood pressure. Researchers analyzed data from 8,670 French men and women, controlling for factors such as age. They found that salt affects those with hypertension (high blood pressure) differently and that people with hypertension consumed more salt, but that the relationship between sodium and high blood pressure is "overstated."

The research found that while the relationship is "more complex than once believed," there was no statistically significant link between blood pressure and sodium consumption.

The study contradicts popular belief that salt causes hypertension, which if left untreated, could cause strokes, cardiovascular disease and heart attacks.

The American Heart Association recommends consuming only 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day, but previous research published in the New England Journal of Medicine contradicts this advice, finding that salt does not impact high blood pressure in healthy people under 60. The research found that people who consumed 3,000 to 6,000 milligrams of salt per day had a lower risk of death and cardiovascular complications.

While studies continue to contradict recommended guidelines, the new research found that while salt doesn't play a huge role in hypertension, alcohol, age and BMI were main factors in developing high blood pressure. "Stopping weight increase should be the first target in the general population to counteract the hypertension epidemic," the study authors write.

When it comes to preventing diseases like hypertension, it is best to focus on maintaining a healthy weight to lower blood pressure while health experts continue to research the salt debate. 

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