The Salt Shaker, Sodium and Your Blood Pressure

Nearly 1/3 of adult Americans have high blood pressure, and salty diets may be partly to blame. Salt plays a key role in electrolyte balance, but too much salt can keep the volume of blood circulating in the body higher than it should be. This puts pressure on blood vessels, walls, causing them to thicken and narrow. The heart has to pump harder to push fluid through a smaller space, raising blood pressure.

The daily recommended intake of sodium (one of salt’s main components) is 2300 mg per day, at most. Americans, however, consume 3400 to 4000 mg a day. Processed foods, which supply 75 to 80 percent of the salt in the American diet, may be the main culprit in our excessive salt consumption. Even those foods we do not traditionally think of as salty, such as bread, cereal and canned beans and vegetables, may push us well past the recommended levels.

Recent research suggests reducing salt can save lives and reduce blood pressure, as effectively as increasing medication. A January study in The New England Journal of Medicine estimated that by cutting sodium intake by 1200 mg per day would cut the annual number of coronary heart disease by up to 120,000 and the number of annual death from any cause by up to 92,000. The study also suggested that reducing salt could save between $10 billion and $24 billion in yearly heath care costs. These figures seem hard to believe. It seems like a very simple thing that we could do with dramatic results. Choose fresh foods when possible. Food processing almost always boosts sodium.

Do you think you will miss salt? Research shows that after 6-12 weeks of low sodium diet, the high sodium diet will taste too salty.

“A truly happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery on a detour.”

Jean Peikert, RN, Parish Nurse


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