Almost all the patients suffering from high blood pressure (Hypertension) knows the fact that reducing dietary sodium (salt) is good for them. They know that salt restriction can help in reducing high blood pressure. This is true in 95% of patients whom I meet at the Out Patient Department. The thing which they are unaware of is that Hypertension is one of the major risk factors of Cardiovascular diseases (CVD) which is fast becoming the major class of killer diseases in the world. Thus, by simply reducing the intake of salt, one can prevent the occurrence of cardiovascular diseases. This article is to emphasis the role of salt reduction for normal as well as hypertensives in order to prevent cardiovascular diseases like heart attack and strokes from happening.
I have already written about the increasing risk of developing cardiovascular diseases due to the notorious Sedentary Life Styles. Studies have shown much stronger relation between high blood pressure and increased intake of sodium.
Coronary heart disease, stroke, kidney diseases including kidney failure, dementia, visual disturbances, etc are some of the disease which can occur due to high blood pressure. We will discuss about Hypertension in a separate post later.
How does Sodium increase Blood Pressure?
Blood Pressure is the pressure exerted by the blood on the walls of the blood vessels through which they travel to different parts of the body. There is a naturally occurring balance in our body regulating Sodium and other minerals which maintain our body’s fluid volume. An increased consumption of Salt (thereby sodium) will disrupt this naturally occurring fluid equilibrium and will lead to fluid retention in our body. As the fluid volume increases, the pressure exerted by blood on the blood vessel wall increases. In simple words, this is how increased intake of salt leads to high blood pressure.
There are other factors which determines and regulates our blood pressure. Read this article to learn the basics of High Blood Pressure.
What are the main sources of Sodium?
Sodium is the main culprit responsible for high blood pressure and the main source of sodium for us is Salt (chemically sodium chloride).
People often ignore or are unaware of the naturally occurring sodium in the daily diet. Some of the common sources of sodiym in our diet include, milk, meat, egg, cream and abundantly in shellfish. Table salt is not the only source of sodium that we consume daily.
Salt is one of the oldest food preservatives and is commonly used in processed meat, fish, cheese, popcorn, beacon, sauces etc. Pickles and Pappads which are famous in Indian diets are also rich sources of salt. Some persons are so fond of salt that they sprinkle salt on everything that they eat and this includes their main meals. Liberal usage of salt in rice and rice soup among Indians are well known. One must be aware of the higher disease risk associated with salt while eating the above mentioned food varieties.
Studies providing Evidence
Numerous studies have been conducted and all of them consistently demonstrate the increased risk of high blood pressure associated with increased salt intake. Some of the major studies in this regard include the following :
>> Meta analysis on the effect of low salt intake on health by – Aburto NJ, Ziolkovska A, Hooper L, Elliott P, Cappuccio FP, Meerpohl JJ. BMJ. 2013, 346:f1326
>> Sodium intake and it’s effect on cardiovascular diseases.
>> Studies have also shown that Potassium intake should be encouraged instead. Salts containing Potassium are easily available in the market.
An average Indian consumes around 12 grams of Salt everyday. An American on the other hand consumes around 8 grams of salt per day. In countries like Japan where salt is an essential component of all the dishes, the average quantity of salt intake is much higher. Population studies have also shown that the the number of persons suffering from Hypertension in such countries is also higher.
According to the World Health Otganization (WHO) an adult is recommended to consume less than 2 grams of sodium (5 grams of salt).
I have already mentioned the different sources of sodium which we consume knowingly or unknowingly every day. Care must be taken while using such food items. Those who are at higher risk of cardiovascular diseases should be more cautious about their diet. Obesity, smoking, alcohol consumption and sedentary life steles are the other major risk factors of cardiovascular diseases. A combination of high salt intake and the other risk factors is extremely dangerous. One should learn to say NO to these practices. That is the only way around.
According to the WHO, an estimated 17.5 million persons died in 2012 due to cardiovascular diseases alone and high blood pressure had the major role in all those diseases. Reducing the quantity of salt in our diet is an easy thing to do. The hard thing is to make the decision to do it. If you have made the right decision after reading this article, do share it.
Image Credit – Leonid Memchenkov