The one thing most savory recipes always include is salt. But too much salt can be detrimental to your health. Salt and sodium are often used interchangeably but they are not the same. Salt is made up of 2 minerals- 40% sodium and 60% chloride. It is the sodium that can be harmful if consumed excessively. The amount of sodium you consume has a direct effect on blood pressure as well as your overall heart health.
Salt and High Blood Pressure
Eating too much salt can increase your blood pressure and put you at risk for high blood pressure. Some of the factors that could influence the effect salt has on your blood pressure include:
- Pre-existing medical conditions
Too much sodium in your bloodstream causes water retention. Thus, it pulls water into your veins and increases the volume of blood. When the amount of blood flowing through blood vessels increases, your blood pressure will increase too. Eating too much salt can also affect the efficacy of blood pressure medication.
Salt and Blood Vessel Health
Too much blood in your blood vessels can injure the walls of the blood vessels and overstretch its walls. It also makes plaque build up at a faster pace than normal. The plaque can obstruct blood flow and further increases blood pressure.
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Salt and Heart Health
High blood pressure and weakened blood vessels can make the heart work faster to pump blood through the body. Similarly, the buildup of plaque in the blood vessel walls can obstruct the blood flow and increase the risk of diseases such as atherosclerosis.
Salt can also cause water retention and lead to weight gain. In extreme cases, it can cause obesity that increases the risk of heart diseases and heart attacks.
Effect of Salt on Other Health Issues
Consuming excess sodium doesn’t only affect the heart, it also affects other organs in your body. For example:
- It could increase the risk of kidney problems and the occurrence of kidney stones.
- It can also cause edema, left ventricular hypertrophy and osteoporosis.
Daily Recommended Salt Intake
Reducing your salt intake is key to managing your weight and blood pressure. It also helps improve heart health. Here’s all you need to know about the daily recommended salt intake:
- According to the Heart Foundation, adults should consume no more than 2000mg of sodium per day. This is equivalent to 5grams or less than half a teaspoon of salt.
- This includes not only the salt you sprinkle over your food but also the salt contained in processed food.
- It is interesting to note that 70% of the sodium we consume is in the form of food from restaurants and processed food.
- If you must eat packaged food, pick food that has ‘no salt’ or ‘low salt’ written on the label.
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To reduce your sodium intake, you should eat more whole grains, lean meats, fresh fruits and vegetables, and dairy products and reduce the number of processed foods. You can also use herbs and spices to flavor food instead of salt.