Researchers from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine uncovered sodium - not high blood pressure - may be what causes people's headaches. This is a major finding considering the high amount of sodium the average American consumes every day. The American Heart Association recommends people keep their intake of sodium to fewer than 1,500 milligrams per day, yet 9 in 10 Americans consume 3,400 mg of sodium every day.
The researchers followed 390 study participants for three 30-day periods. Participants were assigned a particular diet to follow, such as the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet or a typical Western diet for the control group. For each 30-day period, participants were each randomly assigned to either a high-, intermediate- or low-sodium diet.
The researchers found the reduced-sodium diet was linked to a lower rate of headaches in participants, while the other dietary factors had no association with the incident of headaches, meaning it did not matter if you were on the DASH or control diet. During periods where participants ate high-sodium diets, the participants had one-third more headaches than those who ate reduced-sodium diets, Health Central reported.
Where does sodium come from?
Many people consume too much sodium because it is added to store-bought foods, according to the AHA. Prepackaged and processed foods often contain high levels of the ingredient, which is why it is crucial for consumers to check read the label.
Reducing sodium intake
Now that physicians know sodium intake could be the cause of their patients' headaches, they can recommend ways for these people to reduce sodium in their everyday diets. One of the easiest ways to reduce sodium is to focus on purchasing and eating fresh produce instead of packaged foods, according to the National Kidney Foundation. Packaged meats and sometimes frozen vegetables with sauces, for instance, are generally very high in sodium. Additionally, patients should read labels and focus on purchasing low-sodium options.