It does not take a great mind to know that salt and your heart are very closely related. We have been hearing about this since our childhood. But, do you really know how excess salt could lead to high blood pressure? Or how much salt is considered to be healthy? Can you name the top six high sodium foods?
These are some of the most frequently asked questions that often have no answers. In this article, we will give you a clear idea about the link between salt and your heart.
Before we move on to explore more on the link, let’s have a quick look at blood pressure statistics in the US. In fact, the numbers could be scary enough to make you change your bad habits.
According to the CDC, about 33% of U.S. adults have high blood pressure or hypertension. That is equal to about 75 million people. Unfortunately, half of them are struggling with uncontrolled blood pressure. That said, these people are more likely to have other heart diseases and stroke. Did you know that heart disease and stroke are among the top killers in the US?
What is Salt?
The salt in your favorite soup has many physiological functions apart from teasing your taste buds. For a common person, salt means table salt, a white powder that renders the foods saline. Chemically, it is sodium chloride.
Sodium is an essential electrolyte chiefly present outside the cells, the extracellular fluids. An optimum electrolyte-balance inside the body is key to ensuring:
- A healthy blood pH (the measure of acidity/alkalinity of the blood),
- You are well hydrated.
- Your nerves, heart, and muscles are working properly.
Specifically, sodium chloride has a central role in the maintenance of blood pressure and water-content of the body.
Why Too Much Salt is Bad for Your Heart
The relation between salt and your heart is not very friendly. In fact, it has something to do with the water content of the body.
Salt has a unique property to hold onto water. That said, when its amount in the body is high, your body will retain more water. Conversely, when the salt concentration dips, you experience dehydration as more water is lost.
Thus, when the salt-water balance disrupts due to an excessive intake of salt, the heart and blood vessels need to work harder to restore the balance. As a result, some people can develop high blood pressure.
Salt and the Heart: How Much is Needed for a Healthy Heart?
According to the American Heart Association, a person should not have more than 2,300 mg of salt in a day. However, the ideal limit is even lower, 1,500 mg per day.
No doubt, most Americans have more salt they should. The daily salt intake of an average American is 3,400 mg. Interestingly, many of them do not realize it. Isn’t it high time to take note of how much salt you are taking daily?
Which High Sodium Foods You Should Not HaveforaHealthy Heart
As a matter of fact, the original salt content of a food may be quite lower. However, during preparation, people add additional salt for better taste. This is exactly where you should take care. Remember the last dinner at a top restaurant in the town? Restaurant foods are notorious for their high sodium content. Thus, eat out less frequently.
Moreover, make sure to read food labels before buying. Packaged and processed foods are also not far behind in the race!
Foods that contain very high amount of added salt are categorized as the “Salty Six”. Here are the members. Limit their intake or absolutely avoid if your doctor suggests.
- Breads and rolls
- Cold cuts and cured meats
A quick reminder: Many foods that are not on the list are not free of guilt either. For example, potato chips.
Have These Instead
Well, it might not be always possible to completely give up high-sodium foods. After all, they seem to be more satisfying. The better way would be to replace or supplement them with healthy habits. Here are some heart healthy diet patterns you may want to consider.
- Have a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. Frozen and canned alternatives are not bad either. Do not forget to watch the labels for the calorie count.
- Whole grains that are rich in fibers are better than refined foods.
- Take note of the type of meat you eat. Instead of red meats, eat poultry and fish Cook them without adding much salt and oil.
- Fish such as salmon is a good source of healthy fats called omega-3 fatty acids. Enjoy fish at least twice a week.
- Choose naturally low-fat or fat-free milk products.
- Limit your intake of beverages and foods that contain added sugars.
- Cut down on alcohol intake. The safe level of drinking is no more than one drink per day for a woman and no more than two drinks per day for a man.
- If you smoke, quit right away. If you need professional help, talk to your doctor to learn which strategies might help.
Want To Know More?
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