Your heart will love it if you cut down on salt

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Nearly 90 percent of men, women, and even children as young as 2 are consuming way too much salt. This is a problem because excessive sodium intake is hard on your heart. 

The average American adult consumes 3,600 mg of salt per day. United States dietary guidelines say to consume no more than 2,300 mg. The American Heart Association is even more stringent with a limit of 1,500 mg per day.

Tortilla chips1 ounce (10-15 chips)1600 mg
McDonald’s bacon, egg, and cheese breakfast sandwichRegular size1300 mg
Canned red kidney beans100 grams260 mg
Stouffers lasagna1 cup850 mg
Campbell’s tomato soup1 cup480 mg

The problem isn’t the salt shaker. It’s all the processed foods we consume. About 80 percent of our intake comes from restaurant and packaged food.

The kidneys have trouble keeping up with too much sodium, so it accumulates in the bloodstream. To dilute the sodium, the body holds onto water, which increases blood volume. This puts extra pressure on the blood vessels, which overtime causes them to stiffen. This causes high blood pressure, which can lead to heart attack or stroke. 

Genetics, age, lifestyle, and diet are contributors to high blood pressure (also known as hypertension). Research shows that the best overall strategy for reducing risk is to lower salt consumption. Lifestyle modifications can help.

Some ways to reduce sodium:

  1. Choose fresh rather than packaged foods whenever possible.
  2. Read labels. Sometimes foods don’t taste salty, but they are.
  3. Choose the low-sodium version of nuts, beans, and packaged foods.
  4. Use salt-free spices and seasonings to flavor food. Choose garlic over garlic salt, for example.
  5. Reduce your taste for salty foods. It takes about 6 to 8 weeks to get used to consuming less salt, according to the National Kidney Foundation. After a while, you’ll notice that it’s difficult to eat salty foods.
  6. Do 150 minutes of exercise per week. Any amount of physical activity at any intensity is better than none. 

One last thing

Potassium can relax blood vessels, help the body remove sodium, and lower blood pressure. Basically it does the opposite of sodium. Americans don’t usually consume enough. So, eat up on white beans, bananas, oranges, beets, cantaloupe, raisins, spinach, broccoli, potatoes, sweet potatoes, avocado, clams, and salmon.

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