Salt to relieve headaches?

Q: I have had high blood pressure for 30 years, since I was 25. It really gets high sometimes! (145/117). On a daily basis, I refrain from using salt and try to avoid salty foods (i.e. chips, pretzels, fried chicken), but I was told by a paramedic that salt is good for a headache. I thought that was silly until I ate a bag of potato chips while my head was pounding and the headache was gone within 30 minutes. But maybe it was the aspirin and/or the coke I had with the chips. Please let us salt-avoiders know

A: Salt sensitivity is now considered a risk factor for cardiovascular events, even in people with normal blood pressure. Testing for salt sensitivity isn’t easy so the National Institutes of Health recommends that all people watch their salt intake. The recommended daily allowance of sodium is 2,400 milligrams per day. Keep in mind that this amount may need to be increased in hot climates and in situations when a lot of salt from the body is lost through sweating.

Headache can be a symptom of too little salt in the body. Eating salty food in this situation could certainly help relieve the headache. As emergency responders at public events, paramedics are well aware of the symptoms of dehydration and salt loss.

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