Understanding the risks of high sodium consumption
Too many people take eating too much sodium with a grain of salt. However, an extra pinch here and a double dash there can quickly add up to a high-sodium diet. This is even more true when you factor in the high sodium levels in packaged foods and restaurant meals that many have come to rely on. According to the American Heart Association, around 90% of Americans consume too much sodium, which is commonly known as salt and formally called sodium chloride. No matter what you call it, experts call it a problem when you consume too much sodium because people who eat a lot of salt risk serious health conditions. So, get a taste of how sodium affects your body and the many sources of salt in your diet, along with the risks of consuming too much. Then, discover how much sodium is recommended.
What’s up with sodium and your body?
Your body needs a small amount of salt to move your muscles, conduct nerve impulses, and maintain a healthy balance of water and minerals. However, consuming too much can add up to more problems. Eating a high-sodium diet can cause a condition called hypernatremia, which is simply the term for having too much sodium in your blood. Most of the time, hypernatremia is mild and doesn’t cause serious health problems. But in severe cases, the condition can lead to major health issues and dangerous complications if it remains untreated. Take hypernatremia as a warning that you’re consuming too much salt and cut back to get ahead of any problems.
Mining the sources of salt
It may be hard to swallow, but a whopping 70% of the sodium in your diet comes from processed foods and restaurant meals. While it’s obvious that there’s sodium in that bag of salty pretzels, salt is sneaky and you may be eating a high-sodium diet and not even know it. Sodium is hidden in some surprising—and seemingly healthy—products and places. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the main foods that contribute to a high-sodium diet include:
- Breads and rolls
- Cold cuts and cured meats
- Tacos and burritos
- Salty snacks like pretzels, chips, crackers, popcorn, and snack mixes
- Eggs and omelets
Why it’s open season on salt
There’s no way to sugar coat it…people who consume too much salt risk dangerous health conditions. Most of the concern revolves around the relationship between salt and blood pressure. The issue with salt and blood pressure is that too much sodium puts more pressure on your blood vessels, causing them to stiffen, which leads to high blood pressure. In addition to the dangerous link between salt and blood pressure, too much sodium also creates more work for your heart, which can lead to heart attack, stroke, and heart failure. These conditions are just the beginning because people who eat too much salt risk all of the following health problems, including:
- High blood pressure
- Heart attack
- Heart failure
- An enlarged heart
- Stomach cancer
- Kidney disease
- Weight gain
Savor these sodium recommendations
Seasoned experts recommend that Americans consume no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day. Unfortunately, many people consume more than that by lunchtime when you factor in your morning omelet and toast, followed by a deli sandwich at noon. Luckily, there are simple tricks to easily lower your salt intake without eating a bland or boring diet, such as:
- Cutting back slowly – Start by using a little less salt each day or switching to a few low-sodium products to give your taste buds time to adjust.
- Eating real, wholesome food – Choose fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, skinless poultry, fish and shellfish, and nuts and seeds instead of packaged and prepared foods.
- Pumping up your potassium – Foods with potassium can help lower your blood pressure by reducing the effects of sodium.
- Making restaurant requests – When you dine out, ask for your meal to be prepared with little or no salt, while also asking for sauces and salad dressings to be served on the side because they’re typically high in sodium.
- Looking at labels – Choose packaged and prepared foods carefully by looking at the labels to check the amounts of sodium in each serving.
- Cooking sans salt – Flavor your meals with onions, herbs, spices, or a spritz of lemon instead of salt. If your meal needs a dash of salt, sprinkle it on after it’s cooked so you get more of a salty punch.
- Finding out how to lower your blood pressure – Speak to your SignatureMD-affiliated doctor about how to lower your blood pressure. By learning some simple strategies on how to lower blood pressure, you’ll be able to reduce your risk of heart conditions and stroke.
Understanding the risks of high sodium and applying the tips above to table your intake will help to shake off your need for too much salt.