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Monday, January 28, 2008

Sodium and Hypertension

Sodium is a mineral that helps the body regulate blood pressure. Sodium is also commonly known as salt. It also plays a role in the proper functioning of cell membranes, muscles, and nerves. Sodium concentration in the body is mainly controlled by the kidneys, adrenal glands, and the pituitary gland in the brain.

The balance between dietary intake and kidney excretion through urine determines the amount of sodium in the body. Only a small amount of sodium is lost through the stool or sweat. The amount of sodium in urine is controlled by the steroid hormone aldosterone. Water and sodium are also related. Retention of more sodium is followed by retention of more fluid, and vice versa.

Sodium-sensitive individuals may experience high blood pressure from too much sodium in the diet. The American Heart Association has developed specific guidelines for sodium intake. Dietary changes may be helpful. Sodium intake may have little effect in persons without high blood pressure, but it may have a profound effect in sodium-sensitive individuals. Blood pressure is often controlled by diuretics that cause sodium excretion in the urine.

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