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Salt and High Blood Pressure are Partners

November 24, 2017
Plain English Version

Use salt sparingly.

More Americans than ever have high blood pressure.

The link between salt (sodium) and hypertension (high blood pressure) is clear. Consuming too much salt will raise your blood pressure.

The goal of experts is to reduce the amount of salt in your diet. Hypertension is a leading risk factor for heart attacks, strokes and kidney failure.

Where does the salt in diets come from? Most of it comes from processed foods. Pizza, fried chicken and even the dressing in salads are sources of sodium. Restaurants are another source. They use salt to put flavor in their dishes. In fact, the value of salt to please taste buds is the reason so many people enjoy their food.

What is the recommended daily intake for American adults? It is 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day. It is the amount in about 1⅛ teaspoons of salt.

Today, the average American consumes more than 3,400 milligrams a day. That is the amount often found in a single restaurant meal. A lunch of soup and a sandwich can add up to a day’s worth of sodium.

People can use less salt. When they do so, deaths from heart disease and hypertension go down.

But experts say sodium is essential. After all, humans evolved from ocean-dwellers.

Our kidneys are there to process sodium. Too much sodium and the kidney’s dump it into urine for excretion. When the kidney’s need salt, they reabsorb it from urine. Then they pump it back into the blood.

The real problem is too much salt for too long. The kidney’s get worn out.

Sodium levels in the blood then rise along with water needed to dilute it. It results in increased pressure on blood vessels. That leads to excess fluid surrounding body tissues (read, swelling). That is high blood pressure.

One answer is to look for low or no sodium foods when you shop. When you go to restaurants, have them serve the dressing on the side.

And here are suggestions made by experts. Before you put salt on your food take a moment to think. You will likely put less on. Reduce your sodium intake over time. You might begin not to notice it. A cooking trick is to prepare foods without salt. Then sprinkle some on at serving time. Experts say you will get a bigger bang for that salt buck. You will ingest less sodium.

Source: The New York Times November 20, 2017

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