High blood pressure can be a serious condition. In fact, it is the leading risk factor for death. Clearly, taking preventative measures to keep blood pressure normal is well worth the effort. With that in mind, one of the best ways to reduce blood pressure is to avoid the intake of salt.
Over 20% of the population has blood pressure that is “salt-sensitive” — i.e. it can be raised as much as 25 points by ingesting salt. Combine that with the fact that over 60% of the population consumes well over the maximum daily recommendation for sodium and you’ve got a recipe for some serious health problems.
So how does something as common and seemingly harmless as salt cause blood pressure to rise?
When you eat foods high in salt, you add more salt and water than your kidneys can handle. This is partly because salt retains water. All this extra fluid keeps your circulatory volume higher than it should be, putting pressure on your blood vessel walls.
The walls of your blood vessels react to this pressure by thickening and narrowing. And this, of course, leaves you less space for the fluid already there. You now need a higher blood pressure to move blood through these cramped blood vessels to your organs.
It’s a good idea to monitor your salt intake and make sure it isn’t getting too high. What are the biggest culprits in the war against high salt intake? Processed foods. Here’s a list of 10 of the worst offenders when it comes to sodium content:
- Pickled foods
- Canned Soups
- Frozen Dinners
- Salted Fish
- Monosodium Glutamate
- Cured Meats
- Salted Snack Foods
- Prepackaged Noodle Mixes
Be aware, also, that when you are eating out, you are likely to get an “extra” dose of salt in your meals. Salt is used to stimulate your appetite.
Keep in mind, though, that the point is to consume salt in moderation. Salt is not all bad. It’s needed for some pretty important jobs in your body, in fact. Salt helps maintain the fluid in your blood cells. It is used to transmit information in your nerves and muscles. Salt also plays a role in the uptake of certain nutrients from your small intestines. Since your body cannot make salt, you do need to consume some in the food you eat to ensure that you get the required intake. The government recommends an intake of six grams of salt per day.
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