Shake the Salt from Your Diet: Why Sodium Matters - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Published on February 18, 2016

Shake the Salt from Your Diet: Why Sodium Matters

Shake the Salt from Your Diet: Why Sodium Matters

Excess sodium in your body can put you at risk
for high blood pressure, heart disease,
kidney stones or stroke.

Recently, New York became the first city in the U.S. to place salt warning labels on restaurant menus. The foods marked with these new labels contain 2,300 milligrams of sodium or more, which is the recommended sodium limit.

We’ve long been told that salt is bad. But that’s not exactly true – too much salt is bad. Your body needs some salt to function properly. Salt helps your body control your fluid balance as well as the way your muscles and nerves work.

It’s when you consume too much sodium that it negatively impacts your health. When your body contains too much sodium, your kidneys work to remove it by producing more urine. However, if you consume large amounts of sodium, your kidneys may not be able to handle all of the excess sodium, leaving too much sodium remaining in your body. When this occurs, it can cause several problems that raise your risk of serious disorders.

The first issue it can cause involves your blood pressure. Your blood pressure level is how much pressure your blood puts on the walls of your arteries each time your heart beats and between beats when your heart relaxes. A major factor in determining your blood pressure is your blood volume, which is the amount of blood circulating in your body. When you take in more sodium than your kidneys can handle, the extra salt retains water, increasing your blood volume and potentially raising your blood pressure.

High blood pressure alone can lead to a variety of health problems. Perhaps most importantly, it’s a serious risk factor for heart disease.

Over time, when your blood pressure is too high, the extra pressure can cause your vessels to become less elastic and more susceptible to the buildup of plaque—fatty deposits that inhibit blood flow. This can cause a condition called atherosclerosis, or the hardening of arteries. With atherosclerosis, blood vessels narrow and their walls thicken, which means your heart has to work harder and can eventually raise your risk of a heart attack, heart failure and stroke.

Consuming too much sodium can also put you at risk of developing osteoporosis, the thinning of the bones. Salt tends to leach calcium from your bones.

Too much sodium can also put you at risk of:

  • Stomach Cancer
  • Kidney Disease
  • Kidney Stones
  • Enlarged Heart Muscle
  • Headaches

If you plan to reduce your salt intake to minimize your health risk by banishing your salt shaker, it might not be enough.

That’s because more than 75 percent of the sodium in the average American diet comes from salt added to processed foods. That means, when you’re eating processed foods you may even know you’re consuming salt. Cutting table salt can help, but it likely won’t put much of a dent in your sodium intake.

High levels of sodium can be found in salad dressings, canned soups and even foods you may not think of as a salty food, such as bread, pasta and cereal.

In order to lower the amount of sodium you consume, opt for fruit and vegetables over processed foods. When you’re grocery shopping, choose low-sodium products and read their labels to make sure there isn’t “hidden” salt in them.

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