Too Much Salt Will Kill You
Fact: our body needs to consume salt. However, taking in too much salt will increase the risk of hypertension and worsen your cardiovascular health.
Salt (or table salt, sea salt) is composed of sodium-chloride (or NaCl, also called natrium-chloride). In our body, sodium, along with other electrolytes, has many functions such as activating channels so that the physiology, or the function of our organs including nerves and muscles works properly. Sodium also plays a role in the maintaining the stability of the fluid balance in our body, and our blood pressure.
We are able to acquire our daily needs of salt from our usual diet, whether it is marinated or spiced fresh food, processed food, spices and cooking ingredients such as the famous monosodium glutamate (MSG), soy sauce, carbonara sauce, pomodoro sauce, gravy, cheese to just name a few.
According to the American Heart Association, the recommended daily intake of salt for a healthy adult should not be more than 2300 mg (1 teaspoon) per day. The ideal intake of salt the body needs is 1500 mg per day. Of course, the younger the human is, and the smaller the body is, the smaller amount of salt is needed to be consumed.
¼ teaspoon contains 575 mg of sodium
½ teaspoon contains 1150 mg of sodium
¾ teaspoon contains 1725 mg of sodium
1 teaspoon contains 2300 mg of sodium
Cardiovascular, or heart and blood vessel diseases can be chronic in nature. Cardiovascular diseases are the number one cause of death right now. Hypertension, a disease of the blood vessels that has complications to many of your organs, is a risk factor to cardiovascular disease and it is rising in our population. Other modifiable risk factors for cardiovascular diseases include smoking, sedentary lifestyle, unmanageable stress, unhealthy diet, obesity, and high LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Aside from a high fat diet, a high salt diet also increases the risk of hypertension. Sodium functions to maintain the fluid balance in our body through the blood vessels and kidneys. The more sodium is contained in our body, the more water we retain in order to dilute our sodium levels in our body. The more water is retained, the higher the blood volume. The higher the blood volume, the higher the blood pressure and hypertension. The higher the blood pressure, the harder our heart needs to work. All this will lead to damage to the heart, and to the blood vessels which supplies blood and nutrition to your organs, more importantly the heart, brain, and kidneys.
Complications of hypertension include stroke, coronary heart disease (heart attacks), heart failures, and kidney (renal) failure.
Knowing the detrimental effects of consuming too much salt, it is important to pay attention to how much salt you should consume.
Ways to decrease salt intake:
- Use less salt when you are cooking.
- When purchasing processed food, read the labels and pick a product that has low sodium.
- Eat more fresh food like fruits and vegetables. They have low sodium content.
- Eat more fresh meat. Preserved meat such as bacon and sausage, no matter how delicious they are, contain more salt as it is also used as a preservative.
- When cooking, use other spices such as peppers, garlic, ginger, chili, lime, as this will add taste to your food without it being too salty.
- If you eat in a restaurant, you can ask them to use less salt.
- Limit the consumption of sauces that may have high sodium content such as soy sauce, salad dressings etc.
If you have hypertension or are at a risk of hypertension, it is advisable for you to visit your cardiologist. Consult with your cardiologist to see whether you need anti-hypertensive medications, to make sure you are taking the correct medication, and to adjust the proper dosage.