Specialists weigh in on the negative effects of too much salt

Excess sodium leads to long-term health issues

What do a hamburger, slice of pizza and side of French fries all have in common? In addition to being delicious foods enjoyed by many, they all contain very high levels of salt (sodium).

Salt has become a staple in the American diet. While salty foods may taste great, heart specialists warn that they pose significant health risks. A diet too high in sodium can lead to conditions like heart disease and high blood pressure.

James P. Donovan, M.D., a cardiologist with the Norton Heart & Vascular Institute, detailed how you are putting your heart at risk when you eat too much salty food.

“High sodium consumption results in fluid retention, which can cause an elevated blood pressure and the thickening of the heart muscle. This thickened heart muscle can become dysfunctional over time, leading to an increased risk of congestive heart failure,” Dr. Donovan said. “Heart attacks also are more common in patients with high blood pressure.”

In addition to the being bad for the heart, eating too much salt also affects the brain and can lead to stroke.

“High blood pressure is the No. 1 overall contributor to stroke in the United States,” said Bryan J. Eckerle M.D., a stoke neurologist with Norton Neuroscience Institute. “The most straightforward diet approach to reducing the risk for stroke is to cut back on salt.”

Dr. Eckerle also noted that if you already have high blood pressure, you are at an even greater risk of stroke and should be even more aware of how much salt you eat.

What do our doctors recommend for you to stay healthy?

  • Pay attention to food labels and how much sodium is in each food item.
  • Don’t add salt from the shaker onto your food, because so many food items already contain plenty of sodium to begin with.
  • Table salt isn’t the main cause of excess sodium in the diet. Actually, most of the extra salt comes from frozen and processed foods, so try to cut back on those.
  • Incorporate more fresh fruits and vegetables into your meals.

While the occasional salty meal will not ruin your overall health, it’s not something you want to make a habit of. By making healthier choices, your body will thank you in the long run.

The FDA recommends adults with normal blood pressure have no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day. If you do have high blood pressure, keep salt intake to no more than 1,500 milligrams per day. If you don’t know whether you have high blood pressure, click here to schedule a screening appointment.

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