Learn How Salt and High Blood Pressure are Correlated with Each Other

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What Foods Contain Salt?

Salt, or sodium, is needed to help maintain the balance of body fluids, transmit nerve impulses and contract and relax muscles. Most foods contain some salt. Some contain a lot because of the way they are made. Salt can be found in processed and prepared foods (such as bread, breakfast cereals and frozen dinners), natural foods (like celery), and seasonings (including table salt and soy sauce).

Why is Too Much Salt Considered Bad?

Salt is an essential nutrient but consuming large amounts is bad for the health. Salt and high blood pressure have been shown to be correlated with each other. Once you have consumed foods containing salt, the body metabolizes the salt immediately and the kidneys begin balancing the salt intake with the body’s needs. If the body needs salt, the kidneys will retain it. If the body does not need salt, the kidneys will excrete the excess amounts through the urine.

If the kidneys are unable to excrete excess salt, it will accumulate in the blood. Because salt attracts water, blood volume increases. When this happens, the heart has to work harder to move more blood through the vessels and this increases pressure in the arteries. This leads to hypertension (high blood pressure). Sodium-sensitive people are most at risk to develop high blood pressure, which can lead to heart disease, heart failure, stroke, and renal disease. In addition, too much salt can cause blood pressure medications like diuretics to not function properly.

How Can You Control Salt Intake in Your Diet?

A healthy adult should not exceed 2,300 milligrams of salt a day. African Americans, middle-aged and older people, people with high blood pressure, and people with diabetes or kidney disease should not exceed 1,500 milligrams of salt a day. This does not mean you have to consume this amount each day. The less you take, usually the better it is for you. If you have a medical condition, you should consult with your health care provider about how much salt you should include in your daily diet.

One of the most recommended diets is DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension). It consists of vegetables, fruits, and grain products to consume in addition to fish, lean meats, legumes, and fat-free dairy products. It is suggested you combine the DASH diet with a moderately restricted salt intake to achieve a significant reduction in blood pressure. You also need to avoid smoking, high calorie foods, fatty foods, and alcohol. In addition, practicing this dietary combination allows people with normal blood pressure to prevent hypertension later in life.

Keep in mind to read food labels when shopping so you can recognize which foods contain little salt. It is recommended choosing products with ‘sodium free’ or ‘salt free‘ and ‘unsalted’ or ‘no salt added’. However, you should also look at the nutritional information to know exactly how much salt it contains. It is ideal to keep away from products with 200 milligrams of sodium per serving or above.

References

The Blood Pressure Association: Lower Blood Pressure by Eating Less Salt - https://www.bpassoc.org.uk/BloodPressureandyou/Yourlifestyle/Eatingwell/Salt

MayoClinic.com: Sodium: How to Tame Your Salt Habit Now - https://www.mayoclinic.com/health/sodium/NU00284

Medicinenet.com: Salt, DASH, and Blood Pressure - https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=19373