Salt has always been part of the human diet. In the days before refrigeration, it was used to preserve food. In fact, my wife’s grandmother salted leftover meat to keep it from spoiling.
It is also used for flavoring. The vast majority of us grew up with a saltshaker on the table. Cooks everywhere know the true virtue of salt is not to make foods taste “salty,” but to add depth and complexity to other flavors.
Of course, salt is also necessary for life; it helps balance our fluid content, and controls the way muscles and nerves work.
The body naturally regulates the amount of salt it needs. The problem is that the amount we need is minuscule compared to how much salt we consume.
The health effects of consuming too much salt are dire. According to a new report, excess salt consumption is to blame for 2.3 million heart-related deaths worldwide each year.
This research, which was presented at the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology and Prevention/Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism 2013 Scientific Sessions in March, analyzed salt intake in 50 countries around the world.
The researchers found that nearly 1 million of those deaths — or 40 percent of the total — were premature, occurring in people 69 years of age and younger.
Sixty percent of the deaths occurred in men and 40 percent were in women. Heart attacks caused 42 percent of the deaths and strokes 41 percent. The remainder resulted from other types of cardiovascular disease.
According to the American Heart Association, sodium consumption should not exceed 1.5 grams per day (equal to 3.75 grams of salt). This is about three-quarters of a teaspoon of salt daily.
Unfortunately, we consume about five to 10 times those recommended amounts. This excess salt causes the body to retain fluid, and that in turn causes high blood pressure, which leads to heart disease and stroke.
But it isn’t only hypertensive heart disease that results from too much salt. It also heightens your risk of developing nonhypertensive heart diseases, and can lead to your heart becoming abnormally enlarged.
Too much salt also causes kidney disease and is linked to osteoporosis (bone thinning), dehydration, and joint swelling as well.
To win the battle against salt, you need to not only toss out the saltshaker but also rid your shelves of processed foods — particularly “snack” foods.
This is because most packaged, canned, and processed foods contain much more salt than we realize. Even sweet-tasting foods, such as cake batter, contain hidden salt.
Posts by Chauncey Crandall, M.D.
© 2022 NewsmaxHealth. All rights reserved.