Too much salt can be harmful to our bodies

Source: The Daily Times

Research shows that more men prematurely die of cardiovascular disease (CVD) than women. In fact, CVD accounts for 29 percent of preventable deaths in men. Research also has revealed that men eat more salt than women and on average have higher blood pressure. In addition, men are less likely to have their blood pressure measured and to take action to reduce it. This is World Salt Awareness Week, which is sponsored by the World Action on Salt and Health (WASH). The 2011 theme for the awareness week is, “Salt and Men’s Health.”

This also coincides with the new dietary guidelines published by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in January. The new dietary guidelines provide steps to help people live healthier, more physically active and longer lives. One of the key components of the guidelines is to compare sodium in foods, and choose the one with the least amount. Although sodium is an essential nutrient needed by the body in small amounts (unless excessive sweating occurs), most Americans are eating way too much.

Blount Memorial registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator Heather Pierce explains, “Salt can be harmful to our body due to sodium’s ability to hold onto water. Our kidneys are wonderful little organs that keep our sodium in balance. When sodium is high, they will remove some. However, when our intake exceeds our needs and the kidneys cannot keep up with excretion — sodium is retained. Since retention of sodium means retention of fluid, blood volume increases, which places more pressure on the heart and vessels. Those with congestive heart failure, kidney disease or cirrhosis have more difficulty getting rid of the excess sodium, so they must be diligent about keeping dietary intake low.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the average American consumes more than 3,400 milligrams of sodium per day, which is double the recommended limit. The new guidelines recommend reducing daily sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams (ie. 1 teaspoon of table salt), and further reduce intake to less than 1,500 milligrams among those 51 years and older, or those who are African American, have hypertension, diabetes or chronic kidney disease. Pierce says that some people are more sensitive to sodium and retain water when excesses are consumed. Those who are salt-sensitive are at risk for developing high blood pressure, heart disease or strokes. Since more than 74 million Americans have high blood pressure, sticking to the new guidelines will really impact the risk, she says.

For those who are fans of the salt shaker, Pierce recommends tasting food first. Also, she suggests shaking salt into your palm first so you see how much is added. “Preferably, we should add herbs and spices for flavor. Lemon juice and vinegar also are tools that can add that ‘bite’ to foods that salt typically provides. Eventually, your taste buds will get used to a lower-sodium diet. Start cutting back by reading labels and getting familiar with what you are choosing, and choose products with the lowest sodium.”

Original Article: Too much salt can be harmful to our bodies

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