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Does Salt or Sugar Increase Hypertension Risk?

Medically reviewed by Mike Kenneth Go Doratan, MD · General Surgery · The Medical City Ortigas

Written by Franz Vincent Legazpi · Updated Aug 20, 2020

Does Salt or Sugar Increase Hypertension Risk?

Is salt worse than sugar in increasing hypertension?

Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, is a serious health condition affecting many people worldwide.

In the United States alone, 103 million Americans suffer from this medical condition, according to a recent study by the American Heart Association. 

Hypertension is also the most common form of cardiovascular disease (diseases affecting the human heart). It is also the cause of what the World Health Organization estimates to be around 12.8% or 7.5 million of all deaths in history. Cardiovascular diseases, in general, are also the leading cause of death worldwide.

Now, what exactly is hypertension? What are the reasons behind hypertension? And what are its causes? Is there a link between consuming salty or sweet foods and an increased risk of hypertension? Is salt worse than sugar in this regard? 

Let’s learn about all these and more below. 

What Is Hypertension? 

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a long-term health condition that describes the dangerous, elevated levels of blood pumping through your arteries. 

To give you a clearer idea of what happens to your body with hypertension, consider this analogy: When you squeeze a water hose too tight, the flow of the water inside quickens. The same is true for blood and the arteries.

High blood pressure can lead to heart attacks, heart failure, and even stroke if not treated properly. 

High blood pressure is a long-term condition, and you can have it for years without displaying outward symptoms.

It is caused by a variety of factors, such as genes, lifestyle, and of course, the food we consume, including salty and sweet foods. This brings up the question: Is salt worse than sugar? 

Older people are more at risk of developing this condition. This is why it is important to always have a personal checkup with your physician.

To help in managing hypertension, you can also check your blood pressure at home with a specialized device called a digital sphygmometer.  

What Causes Hypertension? 

Hypertension itself rarely has symptoms, but it can be usually accompanied by the following: 

  • Headaches 
  • Vertigo 
  • Tinnitus (ringing of the ears)
  • Fainting
  • Nosebleeds 
  • Changes in vision  
  • Chest pain 
  • Muscle tremors 

If left untreated or unsupervised, hypertension could lead to the following: 

  • Heart attack
  • Heart failure
  • Stroke 
  • Kidney failure

Salt Versus Sugar: Which Causes Hypertension? 

is salt worse than sugar

Is salt worse than sugar? Many studies have been conducted to determine which is worse in increasing hypertension risk. The debate continues to this day. While there is no conclusive evidence pointing to which increases hypertension more, both are likely culprits in causing the condition. 

The Case of Sugar 

Is sugar worse then salt? According to a 2014 study by the medical group Open Heart, sugar, more specifically fructose, can cause hypertension. Processed foods can contain high levels of sugar, which directly affect the heart’s cardiometabolic state.

Excessive sugar intake may result in increased blood pressure, myocardial demand, inflammation, and increased insulin demand. 

It is also widely accepted that obesity is a common factor in increasing hypertension risk. Trans fats and fatty tissue make it more difficult for the heart to pump blood. Arteries can also be clogged due to this, blocking blood travel to the brain and causing stroke. 

Increased consumption of sugar, therefore, could lead to both obesity and diabetes. Both could severely increase the risk of hypertension. 

Hence, is salt worse than sugar? Let us find out.

The Case of Salt 

Is salt worse than sugar, or is it the other way around? Compared to sugar, more studies have been done to determine the relationship between salt and hypertension.

The World Health Organization itself advised that by lessening salt intake to less than 5-6 grams a day, costs on healthcare worldwide would decrease as well. 

Salt, or more specifically the sodium in it, retains moisture in our bodies and maintains the vital balance between water and minerals. However, excessive salt intake means the body retains more water to dilute the sodium. As a result,  blood vessels become stiff and overworked. 

Simply put, the more moisture you have, the harder it is for blood to pump the increased volume. As such, excess sodium in the blood could lead to hypertension. 

Doctors advise consuming less than 2, 500 milligrams of sodium or salt a day. This might be difficult since salt, along with sugar, can be found in nearly every processed food. 

So, is salt worse than sugar? Compared to sugar, lessening salt intake produces immediate results, lowering blood pressure and hypertension risk by the day. 

What Can You Do To Lessen the Risk?

Here are some of the things you can do to lessen the risk of hypertension: 

  • Decrease alcohol intake 
  • Avoid smoking 
  • Decrease consumption of sugary foods 
  • Decrease and manage the consumption of salt 
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables, especially those with potassium
  • Lose weight

Key Takeaways

Hence, the question: is salt worse than sugar? With regard to immediate risk, the answer is yes. Salt, or sodium, immediately elevates heart rate levels and thereby increases the risk of hypertension. But sugar is also a significant contributor to high blood pressure. Consuming too much sugar, in the long run, increases the risk of hypertension as well. So the question “is salt worse than sugar?” is finally answered

What are the best ways to avoid hypertension? Assessing and managing your diet, doing some exercise, and having regular check-ups with your doctor are great and easy ways to start.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Mike Kenneth Go Doratan, MD

General Surgery · The Medical City Ortigas

Written by Franz Vincent Legazpi · Updated Aug 20, 2020

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