I hear that too much salt can cause high blood pressure, and at the same time I hear that I should not worry unless I have heart problems. Should I be concerned about sodium intake?
One week we hear that salt will kill us. The next week that the dangers of salt are blown wildly out of proportion. What’s a person to think? The news has been confusing but luckily, for most of us, when it comes to salt we can safely have our occasional French fry and our salt too!
A recent study in the British medical journal, The Lancet, stated that a low salt diet actually increases the risk of death. This was a retrospective study that asked people to recall what they ate 20 years prior. It then compared that data to their present diets and calculated disease and death rates. I didn’t love this study when it was published because the structure was flawed and the principal author had prior ties to the salt industry. This is one study that should be taken with a grain of salt, if you will.
It is true that most of us eat more salt than is necessary. So much salt sneaks into our diets through processed foods but the reality is that if you have good kidneys and don’t have high blood pressure you can sneak by eating salt and be OK. The problem lies with those people who don’t know they are at risk for diseases like high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke where salt can increase the risk for trouble.
The American Heart Association suggests that you eat no more than 2400mg. of salt a day. This is equal to 1-1/4 tsp. of salt a day. This may not seem like much. Many of us have become accustomed to tasting salty foods.
Another study, in the Journal of the American Medical Association, and one I like a lot more, showed that if you have high blood pressure and limit your salt and lose just seven pounds you can likely reduce or stop your blood pressure medications under the guidance of your doctor. With stroke and heart disease as the leading killers in this country it makers sense to know your family history and risk factors and limit your salt accordingly.