Health Risks of Salt in Your Diet
Significant health risks are associated with high intake of salt in your diet. The mineral compound sodium chloride occurs in table salt, processed foods, and naturally occurs in certain foods as well. While regular high consumption of salt is detrimental to your health, African-Americans generally suffer more from the effects than do Caucasians.
Intake of Salt within Your Diet
Salt is in many processed foods. The substance increases the shelf life of these products. Given the ease of consuming ready-made foods such as cans of soup, many diets are high in salt. It also occurs in foods you eat in restaurants, in the saltshaker, and is naturally occurring in foods such as chicken as well.
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Health Risks of Excess Salt
A diet with excess salt intake correlates with some chronic illnesses. The serious health conditions include high blood pressure and pre-hypertension. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, increases your risks of heart disease and stroke.
The reason for the larger risks is that salt increases fluids in your body, which move into the bloodstream. The high fluid levels overwork your heart, enlarging the organ and weakening it too. You are especially vulnerable if your family has a strong history of heart disease.
Regularly high consumption of salt is also harmful for people with kidney disease. The disease makes it difficult for your kidneys to eliminate excess sodium and fluid in your body. As levels of sodium and fluid increase, your blood pressure rises as well.
Health risks increase further when high sodium intake combines with high consumption of solid fats, sugars, and refined grains. A diet with high salt levels also reduces bone density. Short term effects may include dizziness and muscle cramps.
Race and Salt Levels
Different races process salt differently within the body. A study by Purdue University of African-American and Caucasian adolescent girls found that black females retained more sodium in a high-salt diet than white females. Study subjects in both groups had the same strictly controlled and monitored diets.
Given the results of studies such as the one conducted by Purdue University, black people seem to be more susceptible to hypertension than do their white counterparts.
Salt as an Essential Nutrient
Although diets high in salt have health risks, small levels of consumption are necessary. Salt is an essential nutrient that regulates fluids in your body and helps send electrical signals to your brain, nervous system, and muscles. As a food ingredient, salt enhances flavors of foods, cures meats, and retains moisture in foods.
In the Dietary Guidelines for American 2010 document, the US Departments of Agriculture and of Health and Human Services recommends daily sodium intake of less than 2,300 milligrams (mg). For adults 51 years and older, reduce that amount to 1,500 mg. Also, reduce to the 1,500 mg level if you are African-American or have hypertension, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease.
While salt is an essential part of your diet, consumption needs to be in small amounts. Higher salt intake correlates with higher blood pressure. With lower intake, blood pressure lowers in response. To maintain low salt levels, children and adults can eat fewer foods that are high in sodium. Read Nutrition Facts labels on foods to find sodium amounts and choose items low in sodium. Choose to eat fewer processed foods and more fresh foods. Also, ask that no salt be part of dishes you order out in restaurants. Regardless of race, sodium does affect your health.
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