Too Much of a Good Thing? Yes, and It's Salt.

Health & Wellness

February 28, 2019

You can’t eliminate salt from your diet altogether. It turns out that you only need one teaspoon per day. But because of all the processed, pre-packaged, restaurant, and fast foods available, the average American consumes more than twice the recommended amount (WebMD.com).

The risks.

Daily consumption of a salty diet causes high blood pressure (HBP). How this works is that water naturally is attracted to salt, so if you have too much sodium in your system, you will retain that water, and your body starts to work harder to process the sodium. This can cause HBP, which in turn increases the risk of hardened arteries, kidney disease, heart attack, and stroke.

HBP is sometimes referred to as the “silent disease” because there are no obvious symptoms that a patient can actually feel. HBP is usually diagnosed with blood pressure testing, such as the BP cuff. Due to the typical American diet, HBP is far too common in the U.S.

Instead of treating HBP with medication.

The best non-pharmacologic way to treat HBP is to cut back on salt.

Salty diets are acquired tastes, and if you’ve gotten accustomed to frequent French fries or deli meats, especially pork products like salami, you may find it hard to kick the habit. One method of cutting back is to gradually decrease the obvious suspects.

Another method is to cook at home more often and include other seasonings in your dish while reducing salt. Consider cooking with garlic powder and not garlic salt. Rely on herbs, low sodium seasonings, lemon or lime zest, and pepper. However, make sure you check the label on bottled seasoning blends — some of those still contain high sodium levels.

While we’re in the kitchen, otherwise healthy-looking alternatives, like canned vegetables and broth, can also contain high levels of sodium. The upside is that more and more companies are producing low-sodium alternatives. Read the nutrition labels and compare.

When you’re cooking and at the dinner table, go light on the saltshaker. So many foods contribute to the salty taste, you may not need any extra salt at all. It’s all about accustoming ourselves to the flavors of the meal other than salt.

A final word.

In addition to cutting back on salt consumption, I can’t stress enough how important it is to get regular checkups with your primary care physician and have your blood pressure monitored. It could save your life.

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Author of this article

Austin Slayter, PA-C, specializes in family medicine. He is a guest columnist and located at IU Health Physicians Primary Care – Allisonville, 11530 Allisonville Road, Suite 190, in Fishers. He can be reached by calling the office at 317.678.3850.

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