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High blood pressure — hypertension — is the leading underlying cause of death worldwide. More than 1.25 billion people have hypertension, including more than 100 million Americans. Most people worldwide eat more salt than recommended, too. Is there a connection?

Cora Lewis, M.D., professor and chair of the University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Epidemiology in the School of Public Health is the UAB principal investigator for a multi-center clinical trial, now enrolling participants, that is exploring two related questions:

  • How common is salt sensitivity of blood pressure?
  • What mechanisms can explain it?

“A number of studies link high salt intake to high blood pressure and a higher risk of premature death and cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks and strokes,” Lewis said. “From randomized controlled trials, the gold-standard type of clinical study, we know that a lower-sodium diet lowers blood pressure on average. But there is wide variability in blood pressure response to salt.”

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