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Salt harms the Heart

Sodium is an important mineral that is essential to the body's proper function - however, adding salt (sodium chloride) to food provides us with dangerously high amounts of sodium.

  • The human diet, for millions of years, did not contain any added salt - only the sodium present in natural foods. This equates to less than 1000 mg of sodium per day.
  • Today, according to the CDC, Americans typically consume 3500 mg of sodium per day.1
  • 77% of sodium in the American diet comes from processed and restaurant foods.2

Americans have a 90% lifetime probability of having high blood pressure, and high blood pressure is an important risk factor for future cardiovascular events - hypertension is responsible for two-thirds of all strokes. 3 When salt intake is high, excess fluid accumulates in the circulatory system, exerting pressure on the walls of blood vessels, consequently raising blood pressure and overworking the heart. Pumping against this high pressure constantly for many years can cause the heart muscle to enlarge, which can eventually lead to heart failure. Elevated blood pressure is also the most common cause of hemorrhagic stroke.4

A reduction in sodium intake by 50%, according to a recent meta-analysis, is estimated to reduce the rate of stroke by 23% and cardiovascular disease by 17%.5

Tips for reducing the sodium in your diet:

  • Since most salt comes from processed and restaurant foods, eating unprocessed natural foods is an easy and effective way to avoid excess sodium.
  • Resist adding salt to foods and purchase salt-free canned goods and soups.
  • If you must salt your food, do so only after it is on the table and you are ready to eat it - it will taste saltier if the salt is right on the surface.
  • Avoid condiments such as ketchup, mustard, soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, and relish, which are usually high in sodium.
  • Aim for no more than 300 mg of added sodium per day. Choose foods that have less sodium (in mg) than the number of calories per serving.
  • Use garlic, onion, fresh or dried herbs, spices, lemon or lime juice, or vinegar to flavor food.
  • Experiment to find salt-free seasonings that you enjoy.

Remember, salt deadens the tastebuds, and by avoiding processed and highly salted foods, you will regain your ability to detect and enjoy the subtle flavors in natural foods and actually experience heightened pleasure from unsalted foods.

Added salt, regardless of whether it is table salt or fancy sea salt, adds excess sodium to the body, and it is dangerous. Reducing your salt consumption is one of the most important things you can do to prevent cardiovascular disease.6


References

1. Americans Consume Too Much Sodium (Salt). U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
2. Jacobson, M.F. Salt: The Forgotten Killer. Center for Science in the Public Interest, 2005.
3. Luke, R.G., President's address: salt-too much of a good thing? Trans Am Clin Climatol Assoc, 2007. 118: p. 1-22.
4. Internet Stroke Center: Intracerebral Hemorrhage.
5. Strazzullo, P., et al., Salt intake, stroke, and cardiovascular disease: meta-analysis of prospective studies. Bmj, 2009. 339: p. b4567.
6. National High Blood Pressure Education Program Working Group report on primary prevention of hypertension. Arch Intern Med, 1993. 153(2): p. 186-208.

 

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