We need sodium in our diet to some degree. Sodium is the major extravascular cation and it is responsible for keeping the liquid in the blood vessels. Unfortunately, while salt is a necessary part of our diets, most people eat too much sodium and this results in problems with our hearts. The maximum amount of sodium we should take in is about 2300 milligrams per day.
This number is even less for people at risk for the development of heart disease. These people, namely those over middle age and African-Americans, should have only about 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day. (African-Americans are included because they have a higher risk of hypertension when compared to Caucasians).
People who already have high blood pressure should also consume no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day.
The results of one study
One study showed that people with high blood pressure are not following the recommended guidelines and are instead eating about 3,300 milligrams of sodium per day. People without hypertension are eating about 3,600 milligrams of sodium per day. That amount of sodium is much more than the amount of sodium you sprinkle on the various foods you eat each day.
Most of the sodium you take in doesn’t come from the saltshaker but instead comes from the packaged and processed foods we eat every day. This means you have to read the product labels to find out how much sodium is in the food you are eating.
It is mandatory to list this on the food label. Foods that list ingredients such as sodium, baking soda, sodium bicarbonate, and salt or NaCl all contain sodium and should be included as part of the sodium we eat each day.
The Connection between Salt and High Blood Pressure
The main thing that happens when we eat a lot of salt is that we get high blood pressure, also called hypertension. Hypertension is when the pressure of the blood in the arteries is too high after the heart has done its pumping and when the heart is at rest.
There is a direct link, according to many different studies, between the amount of salt you take in as part of your diet and the blood pressure readings you get at home or at the doctor’s office.
The kidneys can only process so much salt in a given 24-hour period of time and the rest stays in the arteries along with increased water which adds stress to the heart. If high blood pressure is not adequately controlled, it can lead to various diseases, including stroke, heart attacks, kidney failure, and heart failure.
The best way to control blood pressure is to lower the amount of sodium in the food we eat every day.
Changing The Trend In Salt Intake
There can be dramatic shifts in high blood pressure when the amount of salt is controlled in the diet. In a study out of Finland, people ate 4,400 milligrams of salt per day about thirty years ago.
This was when the government of Finland got together with the food industry and the national media to promote the benefits of eating a low salt diet in order to prevent high blood pressure. Foods were manufactured using less salt and using an increased amount of other types of flavoring.
This resulted in a 33% reduction in the amount of sodium eaten by the average Finnish person. While this is still an elevated amount according to recommendations, there was a 75% to 80% reduction in the number of people who died as a result of strokes and coronary artery disease.
The direct link between sodium intake and the development of high blood pressure is clear. High blood pressure and heart disease (including heart attacks and strokes) are highly linked so perhaps the best thing you can do to reduce your risk of heart disease is to eat less salt in your diet.