Can a Salt Substitute Lower Your Blood Pressure?

Salt Substitute


Did you know that high blood pressure affects over 1.4 billion adults globally and is a leading cause of heart disease and stroke? Finding ways to lower blood pressure on a population level is crucial for public health. Could a salt substitute be the answer? New research published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology suggests that simply replacing regular salt with a salt substitute could make a real dent in high blood pressure rates.

Replacing Regular Salt with a Salt Substitute: How It Affects Blood Pressure

The study focused on adults aged 55+ living in eldercare facilities in China. It compared facilities using regular table salt to those using a salt substitute containing less sodium and more potassium. Over the 2-year study, the salt substitute group had 40% fewer new cases of high blood pressure. They were also much less likely to develop hypertension compared to the regular salt group. Importantly, the salt substitute did not cause low blood pressure, which can be dangerous in older adults.

This research highlights a promising new weapon in our arsenal against the hypertension epidemic. Salt substitutes seem an easy, effective way to lower blood pressure across entire communities and populations. Of course, questions remain. The study had limitations like the loss of some patient follow-up data over time. So, we need more research to confirm the benefits for diverse groups of people with high blood pressure.

What Is a Salt Substitute?

Salt substitutes replace some or all the sodium chloride in regular salt with potassium chloride or other potassium compounds. This means you get less sodium and more potassium in your diet when you use these substitutes. The American Heart Association recommends limiting sodium intake to 2,400 milligrams daily, at most, but most adults get 30% more than the amount in their diet.

There are a few reasons why swapping a salt substitute for regular salt helps lower blood pressure:

  • Consuming less sodium brings down blood volume and pressure on blood vessel walls, easing tension. Too much sodium from regular salt is linked to high blood pressure.
  • Getting more potassium helps flush out excess sodium through urine. Potassium also directly relaxes blood vessels, further reducing pressure.
  • The combination of less sodium and more potassium improves the balance between the two minerals, providing greater heart health benefits than changing either one alone.

Research shows non-chloride potassium salts can work as well or better than potassium chloride. This suggests that blood pressure benefits come from increasing potassium rather than needing chloride.

But there is one caveat. People with kidney issues, taking certain medications, or prone to high potassium levels should use caution with salt substitutes. For these groups, high potassium intake can be risky. So, always talk to your doctor before using a salt substitute.

For most people though, salt substitutes offer a straightforward way to lower blood pressure without making major diet changes or cutting salt intake drastically. But if you’re at risk of elevated potassium due to kidney issues or medications, consult your doctor before using substitutes.

How Long Does It Take to Get Blood Pressure Benefits from Salt Substitutes?

If you start using a salt substitute with high blood pressure, research shows you can expect to see modest but meaningful improvements of around 2 mmHg after using salt substitutes after a few months. This is enough to lower your cardiovascular risk.

And for folks starting with normal BP, the substitutes have a preventative effect, stopping the gradual BP creep that often happens as we get older. So, your numbers stay steady instead of ticking upwards.

The most exciting aspect is that some studies show BP differences emerging within just weeks or months of switching salts. But the full potential takes longer – at least 2 years in one study. So, it’s not a quick fix for everyone.

Potassium Has a Blood-Pressure Lowering Effect

Salt substitutes replace some of the sodium in table salt with potassium, but getting enough potassium can make a difference in the health of your heart and blood vessels. When you use a quarter teaspoon of a salt substitute, you get eight hundred milligrams of potassium. This is about a sixth of the potassium you need in a day. So, using a salt substitute daily can boost how much potassium you take in per day.

How does potassium work for lowering blood pressure? It balances out sodium levels in your body. If you eat a lot of salty foods but skimp on potassium, sodium can build up. This causes you to retain extra fluid retention or bloating. Not fun! This creates added pressure on your blood vessels and can trigger a rise in blood pressure.

But when you add more potassium-rich foods to your plate, potassium helps pull excess sodium out of your system. Most fruits and vegetables are decent sources of potassium, but foods like bananas, sweet potatoes, leafy greens, salmon, yogurt, and nuts are some of the best.

Potassium also helps relax blood vessels, allowing blood to flow more freely. The result – lower blood pressure! When vessels stay nice and relaxed, oxygen also circulates better throughout the body.

And get this – a diet filled with potassium-packed fruits and veggies also provides antioxidants, fiber, and other good-for-you nutrients. These help reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, supporting healthy circulation and cardiovascular function.

The key is consistency. Making potassium-rich foods a regular habit provides sustained blood pressure-lowering effects over time. And be sure to pair it with exercise, stress management, and other positive lifestyle factors for the full impact!


The message is clear: sprinkling on a salt substitute rather than regular salt could reduce your risk of developing hypertension. If you already have hypertension, it could also modestly lower your blood pressure over time if you use it consistently. If you don’t have to restrict your potassium intake due to kidney issues or medications, adding more potassium to your diet also helps support heart health. That means adding more tasty fruit and vegetables to your diet! That’s a smart prescription, isn’t it?


  • American College of Cardiology. “Salt substitutes help to maintain healthy blood pressure in older adults.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 February 2024. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2024/02/240212144634.htm>.
  • Smith SR, Klotman PE, Svetkey LP. Potassium chloride lowers blood pressure and causes natriuresis in older patients with hypertension. J Am Soc Nephrol. 1992 Feb;2(8):1302-9. doi: 10.1681/ASN.V281302. PMID: 1627756.
  • Pugle M. Want to Lower Your Sodium Intake? Consider Potassium Chloride Instead of Salt. Healthline. Published May 23, 2019. Accessed February 18, 2024. https://www.healthline.com/health-news/what-is-potassium-chloride-and-why-you-may-want-to-replace-salt-with-it

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