This review first summarizes evidence from animals and humans for and against a role for dietary sodium in the genesis and treatment of hypertension. The evidence for its role is strongest in those subjects with impaired ability to excrete sodium because of organic renal disease or mineralocorticoid excess. Here, restriction of dietary sodium promptly lowers pressure. Its role in the genesis of essential hypertension is more controversial. Nevertheless, it appears that some patients with mild to moderate essential hypertension respond to moderate sodium restriction with a modest fall in pressure. This restriction also seems to reduce the amount of antihypertensive medication needed to keep pressure under control. Next, the mechanism of the pressure response to dietary sodium chloride is considered, with emphasis on potassium depletion and increased plasma levels of prohypertensive sodium pump inhibitor and antihypertensive atrial natriuretic peptide. The evidence for a primary role for dietary potassium in the genesis of hypertension then is summarized; certain subsets of subjects with a high incidence of hypertension also have a lower potassium intake. Some investigators have found that dietary potassium supplementation lowers pressure in established hypertension. This may result from natriuresis and from vasodilation subsequent to stimulation of Na+,K(+)-ATPase in vascular smooth muscle and adrenergic nerve terminals. After the role of dietary calcium is discussed, practical aspects of dietary sodium restriction and dietary potassium supplementation in the therapy for established hypertension are considered. The review concludes with comments on their possible roles in the prevention of hypertension.
- Copyright © 1991 by American Heart Association