Eliminate Hypertension by Dialing Back Saltby Carissa Andrews - May 14th, 2018
The amount of salt a person consumes on a daily basis can be a good indicator for whether or not you could be at risk for developing high blood pressure. In fact, the FDA predicts reducing sodium intake could prevent 83,000 deaths in just twenty years.
You may be surprised to find out 70% of sodium in a typical American’s diet doesn’t come from the salt shaker—it comes from the processed foods we eat. Prepackaged, processed, and prepared foods are the largest culprits.
Fast-food on a regular basis can be a sodium bomb, and when consumed on a regular basis, it can wreak havoc on your blood pressure and overall health. However, so can eating too many prepackaged foods or anything that’s been heavily processed. Salt is a great preservative and helps products withstand their sometimes-long shelf-life. But that doesn’t mean it’s the best thing for us to be consuming on a regular basis.
What is salt good for and how much do we need?
Ordinary table salt is a combination of sodium (approximately 40%) and chloride (approximately 60%). Our bodies need a fraction of the salt most of us consume. In fact, we need less than 500 milligrams of sodium per day in order to function properly. That’s roughly the amount found in a ½ cup of vegetable or chicken broth soup.
In moderation, salt helps our cells to regulate their size and electrical activity for your nerves. Without it, your body doesn’t function properly and many people even report getting dizzy when they’re sodium deficient. However, it’s safe to say in the modern age, that’s pretty rare.
Americans and many people around the world get far over the necessary 500mg amount. In fact, most people border around the 3,000mg mark, which is far too high. Recommendations by the US government, provided under the guidance of the Institute of Medicine (IOM), are to limit sodium to under 2,300mg per day for anyone over the age of fourteen and ideally, closer to 1,500mg. Children younger than fourteen should follow a different set of guidelines.
Salt isn’t all bad. It can make food taste better (as we all know), and even support hydration in the body (particularly during exercise). However, too much can cause the body to retain water and lead to bloating (edema). It can also influence the contraction and relaxation of muscles.
Is it true? Can salt cause hypertension?
With a high salt intake on a daily basis, blood pressure can be consistently elevated thanks to water retention and the stiffening of cells lining the arteries. This is particularly true for those who are salt sensitive, lack daily exercise, or are obese. If left unchecked, a diet high in sodium can bring on hypertension, which can lead to far worse things like stroke or heart disease.
If you’re dealing with hypertension, cutting back your salt and sugar intake is very important. If changing your diet is proving difficult, or perhaps not the root of your hypertension issues, you may also want to consider talking with your doctor about some of our most popular medications used to treat high blood pressure. These include:
• Diovan HCT
What other risks does too much salt contribute to?
Hypertension isn’t the only problem too much salt can create. While salt intake itself doesn’t cause cardiovascular disease, overconsumption of salt increases our risk of developing it. According to the American Heart Association, our risk of heart disease increases with every 1,000 milligrams of sodium we ingest.
The reason for this is because of the domino effect sodium causes throughout the body. It causes water retention, which in turn, elevates blood pressure. Hypertension can lead to stroke, risk of heart attack, and cardiovascular disease.
Other problems too much salt can contribute to include:
• Damaging blood vessel dilation
• Stiffening cell lining in arteries
Sugar v Salt
Salt isn’t the only thing you should be worried about if you have high blood pressure or cardiovascular issues. A high sugar intake, particularly sugar in the form of HFC (high fructose corn syrup), can triple your chance of cardiovascular disease. Especially if 25% of your daily calories comes from refined sugars.
Recommendations to balance your sodium intake
If you’re looking for ways to reduce your sodium intake and detox your body from its effects, we have some tips and recommendations for you to consider.
• Stay away from processed foods and eat more whole foods. This includes whole grains, lean meats, and fruits/veggies.
• Opt for low-sodium variations. When you have to buy processed foods, look for the low-sodium variations. You might be surprised how many of them are out there.
• Eat more fresh fruits and veggies—especially potassium rich ones. While sodium can stiffen the cells lining the arteries, potassium does the opposite. It’s a great way to detox (besides drinking water) when you’ve had too much salt.
• Buy frozen veggies. If fresh fruits and veggies spoil too fast at your house, go for the frozen variety. They’ll last longer and they’re just as healthy as their fresh counterparts.
• Season with other salt-free herbs. Skip adding salt to your meals to bring out the flavor. Instead, opt for other herbs or spices, like a little bit of garlic powder, to bring out the flavor.
As you work toward avoiding or limiting your salt/sodium intake, be sure to read the labels of the products you purchase—and be savvy to the lingo companies use to disguise or rebrand salt. Watch out for any of these salt-laden culprits hidden in your label that have more than 200mg of sodium per serving:
• Monosodium glutamate (aka MSG)
• Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)
• Baking powder
• Disodium phosphate
• Sodium alginate
• Sodium citrate
• Sodium nitrate
We all need salt to function optimally, but it’s fairly obvious the quantity most people consume is far too much. It causes a host of health problems from causing hypertension, to contributing to bloating and water retention, and can even damage your cardiovascular health. Finding a good way to balance our desire for tasty foods with eating healthily is key. Just by reducing the amount of salt we ingest can have a knock-on effect, altering many potential risk factors. If you’re wanting a simple way to lower your blood pressure, reduce bloating, and bolster your overall health, why not start with lowering how much salt you consume today?
Carissa Andrews is a freelance writer, graphic designer, and author. You can learn more about her at her website.