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Even modest reductions in salt intake can lower blood pressure dramatically in patients with isolated systolic or combined hypertension, research-ers conclude.

The study leader described the finding as 'entirely new' and urged GPs to make salt reduction a central plank of their hypertension care.

Reducing daily salt intake from 10-12g to 5-6g for a month cut blood pressure from 166/86mmHg to 156/85mmHg in patients with isolated systolic hypertension.

A similar reduction in salt reduced blood pressure from 161/100 to 154/96 in patients with combined hypertension.

Researchers estimated that in patients aged 60-80, the fall in blood pressure would reduce the risk of stroke by a third, and ischaemic heart disease and myocardial infarction by a quarter.

Study leader Professor Graham MacGregor, head of cardiovascular medicine at St George's Hospital Medical School, London, said: 'This is an entirely new finding. No one has previously done a study of the effects of salt reduction on isolated systolic hypertension. Every health professional should ensure all patients are informed how to reduce their salt intake.'

He said the study refuted findings from recent National Health and Nutrition Examination surveys suggesting reductions in salt intake only affected those with isolated diastolic hypertension.

The research, published in Hypertension (July), reanalysed data from salt reduction trials, with data on 24 patients with isolated systolic hypertension and 88 with combined.

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