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Main Cause of High Blood Pressure or Hypertension and How to Lower It

At age 16 I was a volunteer at a hospital bacteriology lab. I became a chemist for U.S. government. Then I studied health & related fields.

Salt Shaker & High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)

Danger level.

Danger level.

Taking blood pressure.

Taking blood pressure.

Only a small amount of sodium comes from the salt shaker. Most comes from processed foods.

Only a small amount of sodium comes from the salt shaker. Most comes from processed foods.

Main Cause of High Blood Pressure

This was written on December 30, 2011. By knowing the main cause of high blood pressure or hypertension, you will be able to cure your high blood pressure. If not, it will still improve cardiovascular health and reduce your chance of getting heart attacks and strokes.

This cure is actually stopping what is causing the majority of the high blood pressure. Now stopping the cause will take a big change so most of this article will be to convince you that it is worth the effort. Many people have changed their health with a raw foods diet.

It is much easier to go take a drug for this. Ignoring the cost, drugs have side effects and hypertension drugs or medications usually have nasty side effects like impotence. Also think about this. Say one person is overweight, has a bad diet and does not get exercise. He has high blood pressure (HBP) and he eats a good diet, gets exercise and loses his excess weight. He then no longer has high blood pressure.

Say someone else has a bad diet, does not exercise and is overweight. They take a medication (drug) for it and they no longer have it. But they are still overweight with a bad diet and no exercise. Do you think that this person has the same level of cardiovascular health as the other person?

Say someone that has a bad lifestyle and HBP, then they exercise, improve their diet and lose their excess weight but still have high blood pressure. Does that mean that their cardiovascular health is no better than it was before? I have heard of people who take a fruit drink or herb called mangosteen and their HBP is gone. Does that mean that it will happen with every person or even most people.

So it is a good idea to try the above things to see if they work. Even if they do not lower your hypertension you will still be healthier by doing those things. In the U.S. a third of the people have high blood pressure and 40% of the people over age 40 have HBP. There are areas in the world where people have a potassium to sodium ratio in their diet of over 5 times and less than 1% of them have HBP.

January 18, 2016 Update

So this article is about getting your sodium intake to 1/5th or less your than your potassium level to get rid of high blood pressure. But salt is not a food and it is addictive. A tribe that does not consume salt has no high blood pressure and not only that, their blood pressure at age 50 is the same as when they are born, about 110 over 65. Also wild animals do not eat salt and get no high blood pressure. But that proves nothing since it is correlation and it could be something else.

So they gave salt to chimpanzees and rats to test causation. These animals that get no high blood pressure got high blood pressure. Not only that but the more salt that they were given, the higher it went. Now the CDC says hardening of the arteries happens to everyone and this is why there is high blood pressure. But the above proves that salt causes it. Then they stopped giving them salt and their high blood pressure went away. For more on the actual studies done and more see How to Live 30 Years Longer.

Also have you heard of the paleo diet? That has a diet of no salt just like they consume no rust or chalk even though they are great sources of iron and calcium. In fact humans have no shortage of protein or calcium. So why do you hear a lot about them. Because dairy (for baby animals) and meat have a lot of calcium and protein. The only people that do not get enough of them are starving people. So to see that the paleo diet has no salt, see Is the Paleo or Vegan Diet the Healthiest. Also learn about rogue paleo people who say that salt is okay. End of Update.

Dr Oz advises people to eat foods without an ingredient list. You can also say that this means unprocessed foods. Say that you have a bag of frozen spinach. If the only ingredient is spinach then it is unprocessed and has no ingredient list. If it says spinach and salt, then it has an ingredient list. Man has taken that food and added whatever amount of that chemical, sodium chloride, that they wanted to.

Americans eat an average of 3,600 mg of sodium a day. People in Kenya eat mostly fruits, vegetables and grains that have a lot of potassium. They eat an average of 2,000 mg of sodium a day. So Americans consume 80% more sodium than Kenyans. At a hospital in Kenya, they saw 1,800 over a 2 year period. How many of them had high blood pressure? None of them.

The main dishes of Kenya are ugali that is cornmeal starch made into a thick paste, sukuma wiki (collard greens), chapatis (Indian flatbread), irio (combination of potatoes, green peas and kernels of corn mashed up into a heavy nutritious starch) and maharagwe (kidney beans in coconut curry soup).

Just added December 5, 2012: Here is an article from Harvard School of Public Health called Too Much Salt, Too Little Potassium, Increases Risk of Death. It says:

Here’s yet another reason why you should eat more fruits and vegetables and cut back on processed foods: A large new study finds that people who eat high sodium, low potassium diets have a higher risk of dying from a heart attack or from any cause. The study, which appears in the July 11, 2011 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, (1) bolsters the already-substantial evidence that high salt diets have negative effects on health. (2-4) And it highlights a key dietary change people can make to lower their risk: Eat more fresh vegetables and fruits, which are naturally high in potassium and low in sodium—and eat less bread, cheese, and processed meat, since these and other processed foods are high in sodium and low in potassium.

Almost all unprocessed foods have sodium in them. So you do not need to worry about getting enough sodium. Another article of mine tells about the health benefits of eating seaweed. Seaweed has lots of sodium in it. But the ratio of potassium to sodium in unprocessed foods is usually over 10 times.

But salt is not a food. Foods have less than 1% sodium or any mineral for that matter. But salt is a rock and it is 40% sodium. So a teaspoon of salt has more sodium than 50 pounds of unprocessed food. Is salt really unhealthy for you? You can eat a pound (16 ounces) of bacon and still be fine. But if you put 4 ounces of salt in a quart of water and drink it, then you will die. Of course it will taste so bad that you will feel that you are being poisoned when you try to drink it. To read the example of where this has actually happened, see my article The Worst Things for Health.

So what you want to do is bring your ratio of potassium to sodium over 5 times or 5 to 1 (5:1). So increase your consumption of potassium and decrease your consumption of salt. You can drink orange juice or coconut water during the day since they are very high in potassium. If you want, you can stop consuming salt and that is fine. There is a need for a small amount of sodium but no need to consume salt. Unprocessed food contains sodium but not salt.

You can snack on raisins that are very high in potassium. Raisins are concentrated grapes. You can eat avocados that have about 1,200 mg of potassium. Red, golden and purple potatoes are very high in potassium. I do not eat the brown ones since they do not look and taste as good as the other ones. Try to get organically grown to avoid GMO, irradiation, pesticides and usually have higher nutrients like potassium. A medium size potato has about 800 milligrams of potassium in it.

Here is a study done with 12,267 U.S. adults from the archives of JAMA (Journal of American Medical Associtation). Sodium and Potassium Intake and Mortality Among US Adults: Prospective Data From the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. It says:

Methods: To investigate estimated usual intakes of sodium and potassium as well as their ratio in relation to risk of all-cause and CVD mortality, the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey Linked Mortality File (1988-2006), a prospective cohort study of a nationally representative sample of 12 267 US adults, studied all-cause, cardiovascular, and ischemic heart (IHD) diseases mortality. [CVD-- cardiovascular diseases]

Conclusion: Our findings suggest that a higher sodium-potassium ratio is associated with significantly increased risk of CVD and all-cause mortality, and higher sodium intake is associated with increased total mortality in the general US population.

A pooled estimate obtained in the meta-analysis of 19 independent cohort samples with 177,025 participants (range of follow-up, 3.5-19.0 years) showed that higher salt intake was significantly associated with greater risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease.

Because sodium is added to many foods, especially processed foods, while potassium is naturally present in most foods, a low sodium-potassium ratio may be a marker of high intake of plant foods and lower intake of processed foods.

In summary, our findings indicate that higher sodium-potassium ratio is associated with significantly increased risk of CVD and all-cause mortality in the general US population. Public health recommendations should emphasize simultaneous reduction in sodium intake and increase in potassium intake.

My article on foods that lower high blood pressure tells how webmd.com has an article that says that orange juice lowers HBP. It is due to the hesperidin in it. But a glass of orange juice has about 500 mg of potassium in it. Now the rest of this is to convince you that the potassium to sodium level is the most important thing otherwise you may think it is not worth your effort. Webmd.com does have an article called Cutting Salt as Good as Quitting Smoking that says that cutting down on sodium is as good for for cardiovascular health as quitting smoking. It says:

Jan. 22, 2010 -- Cutting U.S. salt intake by just half a teaspoon a day would prevent up to 92,000 deaths, 99,000 heart attacks, and 66,000 strokes -- a benefit as big as smoking cessation.

Wikipedia says:

The sodium-potassium pump was discovered in the 1950s by a Danish scientist, Jens Christian Skou, who was awarded a Nobel Prize in 1997.

In order to maintain the cell membrane potential, cells must keep a low concentration of sodium ions and high levels of potassium ions within the cell (intracellular).

This pump is in all the cells. Harvard Medical School has an article: Hypertension: Controlling the "silent killer" It says:

An alarming one in three American adults has high blood pressure. Known medically as hypertension, many people don't even know they have it, because high blood pressure has no symptoms or warning signs.

This report details those changes, including a Special Section that features numerous ways to cut excess salt from your diet — a policy strongly recommended by new federal guidelines.

When you click on Excerpt at the top of it you get this:

Because the human body is so good at conserving this vital mineral, you need only a tiny amount of sodium. Some tribes, like the South American Yanomamo Indians, consume a mere 200 mg, or about one-tenth of a teaspoon of salt—per day. Thousands of years ago, when humans roamed the earth gathering and hunting, sodium was scarce. But potassium — found naturally in many plant-based foods — was abundant. In fact, the so-called Paleolithic diet provided about 16 times more potassium than sodium.

Today, the average American diet contains about twice as much sodium as potassium, thanks to the preponderance of salt hidden in processed foods. This sodium-potassium imbalance, which is at odds with how humans evolved, is thought to be a major contributor to high blood pressure. Findings from the Trials of Hypertension Prevention study suggest that changing the balance between these two minerals can help the heart and arteries.

Note that the paleolithic diet as presented by its founder includes no salt at all. So far that is only the opinion of webmd.com and Harvard Medical School. But I have a lot more. But salt also causes people to eat more food. It is addictive so after eating less for a few weeks you need to use less. You can use granulated kelp that is a seaweed that has a salty taste. It has no salt in it but is high in potassium.

Patricia Bragg has a spice mix that has granulated kelp as the first ingredient and about 20 other herbs. There is no salt in it! These herbs or spices are great for health. Trader Joes stores has a spaghetti sauce (marinara sauce) with no salt added. Do you think they would sell it if it tasted awful? Seattle Times has an article from called Salt diet dangers may be influenced by potassium.

. It says:

ATLANTA -- The debate about the dangers of eating too much salt has gained a new wrinkle: A federal study suggests that the people most at risk are those who also get too little potassium.

Potassium-rich foods, including fruits and vegetables, have long been recommended as a dietary defense against heart disease and other chronic illnesses. The new research is one of the first and largest U.S. studies to look at the relationship of salt, potassium and heart disease deaths.

"If you have too much sodium and too little potassium, it's worse than either one on its own," said Dr. Thomas Farley, New York City's health commissioner, who has led efforts to get the public to eat less salt. He co-wrote a commentary published with the study in Monday's Archives of Internal Medicine .

Potassium may neutralize the heart-damaging effects of salt, said Dr. Elena Kuklina, one of the study's authors at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC].

Also research has shown that even if people increase this ratio of potassium to sodium and they still have HBP, they get less heart attacks and strokes. Many without HBP get heart attacks and strokes. So HBP is more a symptom of the problem on the cellular level of an imbalance of these minerals.

My mother did not exercise and had a very bad diet. She was not overweight since her metabolism was too strong for that to happen. A drug kept her HBP at a normal level. She had a stroke at age 46 and died!

They say that salt only causes some people to get HBP. That is because some have a higher resistance to it. But as age increases the percentage of people with it goes up. So my mother had a powerful resistance to becoming overweight by eating lots of fattening foods like ice cream. Also with her great genes people thought that she looked in her 20s at age 46.

Please note that in chemistry the symbol for elements is sometimes the first or first 2 letters of its Latin name. For sodium it is Na and for potassium, it is K. NaCl is sodium chloride or common table salt. So the following book refers to the ratio of these 2 elements as the K factor. The book, The High Blood Pressure Solution (see amazon.com section below) by Richard D Moore, M.D., Ph.D. says:

That study found that in women consuming more than 2,600 mg of potassium per day (about the amount in three and a third potatoes) there were no stroke-related deaths at all. In men, there were no stroke-related deaths when potassium consumption was greater than 2,964 mg per day.

Second, this finding reinforces the conclusion that blood pressure is not the key problem in hypertension. If it were, it would be impossible to reduce strokes without lowering blood pressure.

Dr Louis Tobian at the University of Minnesota Medical School has been one of the main pioneers in establishing that increasing the K factor by giving potassium not only can lower blood pressure but also can protect against the damaging consequences of hypertension, including strokes, kidney disease, and enlargement of the heart.

At the 1983 meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Dr. Tobian reported on experiments that confirm that even when blood pressure is not lowered, increasing dietary potassium decreases the chance of death and restores a normal lifespan to hypertensive rats.

[Tobian, L. The protective effects of dietary K against the lesions of NaCl-induced hypertension. Abstracts of Papers of the 149th National Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science 64 (1983).]

[From back of book] Dr Moore's approach is simple: by maintaining the proper ratio of potassium to sodium [5:1 or higher] in the diet, blood pressure can be regulated at the cellular level, preventing the development of hypertension and the high incidence of strokes and heart attacks associated with it.... The most striking results come from Finland, where table salt has been replaced nationwide with a commercial sodium/ potassium/ magnesium mixture. Between 1972 and 1992, Finland saw a 60% decline nationwide in deaths attributed to strokes and heart attacks.

Here is (December 26, 2012 update) the U.S. National Library of Medicine (PubMed) article about: Potassium intake, stroke, and cardiovascular disease a meta-analysis of prospective studies. For more on this see the first video (only 2 minutes long) below. The above says (there is no mention of high blood pressure):


The objective of this study was to assess the relation between the level of habitual potassium intake and the incidence of cardiovascular disease (CVD).


Higher dietary potassium intake is associated with lower rates of stroke and might also reduce the risk of CHD (coronary heart disease) and total CVD. These results support recommendations for higher consumption of potassium-rich foods to prevent vascular diseases.

I also have an article about salt making you overweight due to the excess water it causes you to retain. On July 7, 2012, Board Certified Cardiologist Dr. Kevin Shinal saw this article and said on Twitter: "Nice info here! As a cardiologist, I see high BP, heart failure and ankle swelling, all from salt! So much hidden in foods!" I also have a very good article about supplements that lower high blood pressure that includes the extract of a seaweed.

Preventing Strokes with Diet: Increasing the intake of potassium-rich foods is associated with a significantly lower stroke risk.


Linda Rogers from Minnesota on April 30, 2013:

Thankfully I love all vegetables and fruits~well, almost. (just don't like cantaloupe).

I eat a lot of stir-fry's but use the soy sauce but have cut way down. You are so right that the foods we eat as children become what we tend to eat as adults. I have heard, as you stated, that you do get use to not having table salt on food eventually. I had a good friend that put tons of salt on everything. She has been salt free for years and now can't stand the taste of it. I guess it's what the body gets use to. Thanks again for the tips.

Chuck Bluestein (author) from Morristown, AZ, USA on April 30, 2013:

Sea salt is 2% better so use that if you have to. As far as how you grew up, this is why the children of obese parents become obese. This is why the French love eating snails and the Koreans love eating rats. Instead of eating apples, eat fruit that you ate with no salt on it.

Like eat watermelon that has a lot of potassium in it. I have an article all about watermelon and how it lower high blood pressure and even how it helps with ED (erectile dysfunction). On the other hand Indians grew up eating a lot of cayenne, which is great for health. So they can eat a dish that would make you scream.

Then the Japanese like burning hot dishes like snacks that are dried peas coated with wasabi and sushi. Mexicans like to eat a lot of hot peppers that are great for health.

Linda Rogers from Minnesota on April 30, 2013:

Thanks so much Chuck for answering me back so quick. I love love love fruits and veggies, but my downfall is I love salt on them. In the fall I get Haralson Apples at a farmers market or apple orchard. The problem again is that as a child, we had an apple tree and we put salt on our apples. It's a bad habit that I have kept. I just love the salty/sour taste. It's gonna be a really hard habit to break. I will definitely try Bragg's multi-spice. I also love garlic so that helps me out. I have used sea salt at times instead of table salt-is that healthy or just as bad? I really appreciate your help with this.

Chuck Bluestein (author) from Morristown, AZ, USA on April 30, 2013:

They cut up kelp into little pieces and it is called granulated kelp and it is sold in shaker bottles. It contains no salt but has a salty taste like all seaweed. I have an article about how the Japanese are the longest living people the world. They eat a lot of seaweed.

Also I was just editing my article about how fruits are the healthiest foods. So how much salt do you put on your watermelon or oranges? So raw fruits and vegetables that are healthy and do not need spices. They are also sweet (do you like sweets).

But what about a cooked food like brown rice and kidney beans? Well instead of adding salt, you can add olive oil for a fattier taste. Then you add spices (enough that you can taste them) like garlic (I love garlic), red pepper (cayenne), curry that contains more than one spice but includes turmeric and a multi-spice with 20 different spices. Note that Bragg's has a multi-spice with 20 different organic spices and they also have another one with the same exact spices but with granulated kelp as the first ingredient.

All these other spices are foods unlike salt. One chef says he uses thyme to cut down on the salt. Please note that in the above dinner, even though brown rice and kidney beans are healthy, the spices are even healthier. They are super healthy.

Linda Rogers from Minnesota on April 30, 2013:

You did yourself proud with this incredible hub on hypertension. I know I use way too much as well as getting it with processed foods. I really have to start working on this. If I quit using table salt, where do I get that kelp salt mixture that tastes like salt? We have stores here like whole foods and trader Joes. You really did a great job with useful information, educating us all on the dangers of salt and how lower sodium and more potassium can help us live longer. Voted up and hit many buttons. I am also sharing this important article.

Chuck Bluestein (author) from Morristown, AZ, USA on September 30, 2012:

Christy, if people adopt a better diet, it does not make money for doctors and the drug companies that pay doctors in different ways. Selling drugs keep the patient sick and coming back to the doctor. I do not know about Canada but in America, people love money more than anything. With enough money some people will kill someone.

A dentist makes a good income. A dentist was married but fell in love with a nude dancer in Philadelphia. So he killed his wife for the insurance money to spend on this nude dancer. If you ever want to look it up, her name is Summer.

The U.S. president will lie for money. Obama said he would take our troops out of Iraq by a certain date but he did not do it since the corporations that make big money on war, would lose money. Obama went to war with Afganistan for the same reason. It is an illegal war since congress has to declare war and they have not done that since War World II.

President Bush and his VP have been convicted of war crimes! At the same time that America has more homeless children than ever, we have over 400 billionaires that have over one thousand million dollars. A lot of profit comes from war. America spends over a billion dollars a year to air condition the tents of the soldiers.

whonunuwho from United States on September 30, 2012:


Christy Birmingham from British Columbia, Canada on September 30, 2012:

What interesting information here. The answer to reducing blood pressure is more than just taking a pill. Being physically active and modifying diet is also important. I know people who have relied on medications and really the root of the problem is not addressed. Good research here.

Mary Butler-Fink on March 28, 2012:

This article was very informative.



Chuck Bluestein (author) from Morristown, AZ, USA on January 31, 2012:

Trader Joes markets usually has a 5 pound bag of organic red potatoes for less than $4.50.

formosangirl from Los Angeles on January 28, 2012:

Chuck, I didn't know about red potatoes, which I have been eating lately. Voted up and useful.

glassvisage from Northern California on December 31, 2011:

This is a very comprehensive Hub on this topic. I hadn't thought of this as a problem in my stage of life until my good friend was told by her doctor that she has hypertension. Thank you for the many tips and suggestions on foods to eat.

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