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How Salt Affects Heart Health

How Salt Affects Heart Health

Salt, also known as sodium, is crucial to your health; it’s necessary to maintain fluid balance in your blood and tissues. Too much of it, however, is bad news for your heart.

Wellness physician Corey Howard, MD,FACP, FMNM, FAARFM, and the team here at Howard Health and Wellness, are here to help patients keep their hearts as healthy as possible. Despite advances in medicine, and living longer, heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the United States.

Keeping your heart healthy means adopting habits that keep your heart strong, and your blood vessels clear, and flexible. Keep reading to learn more about how salt affects your heart health.

Salt and your heart 

The right amount of sodium is crucial to your health. It’s important to understand what sodium does, and its role in your body. Sodium helps maintain a normal blood pressure. It also supports your nerves, and muscles so that they function properly. As an electrolyte, sodium works with potassium to regulate fluid balance.

Your kidneys are in charge of getting rid of excess sodium, and making sure that your body has the right amount at all times. Most of the sodium in your body is found in your blood, and in the fluid that surrounds your blood. You lose sodium when you sweat, and when you urinate. Healthy kidneys have no problem maintaining a consistent sodium, but too much of it places added stress on the kidneys. 

What is the recommended daily intake for sodium?

Just how much sodium should you have each day? If you're like most Americans, you're eating more than the recommended intake of salt per day. Americans consume about 3,400 mg of sodium each day. 

The average person should actually limit sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg per day, that equals about 1 teaspoon of salt. People who have high blood pressure or other risk factors should reduce their sodium intake even further, to no more than 1,500 mg per day.

Now that you know the role of sodium in your body and how much you should have, it's time to discuss how too much salt affects your heart.

Why is salt bad news for your heart?

Your body only needs a small amount of salt for optimal health. When you consume too much salt through your diet this puts an extra strain on your kidneys, and your circulatory system. Excess salt causes the body to retain water and this increased fluid in the body raises blood pressure, putting a strain on your blood vessels, your heart, and your kidneys.

Elevated blood pressure damages blood vessels, including small blood vessels that supply nutrient-rich blood to your organs. The added stress and damage to your cardiovascular system increases the risk for heart disease. Each year heart disease kills roughly 655,000 people in the US.

Taming your salt habit

Work with a healthcare provider to cut back on your salt intake. You may be surprised to know that the majority of the salt in the average person’s diet doesn't come from the salt shaker. Packaged and processed foods are the primary source of excess sodium in the American diet.

One of the best ways to cut back on how much sodium you consume each day is to cut back on packaged and prepared food. Instead, start preparing most of your meals yourself at home. That way you can control the ingredients and skip the salt. When you do purchase package food, it's crucial to check labels. Look for low sodium options.

Beware of foods like processed meats, such as deli meats, and sausages, as well as condiments like salad dressings, and canned soups. These items are often laden with excess salt. Salt is a flavor enhancer, so food manufacturers have an incentive to add extra salt into their products. But this excess salt isn’t doing your heart any favors.

Tackle your health goals

A health and wellness professional is your best resource when it comes to staying as healthy and strong as possible, so that you can live a long, productive life. Whether you're looking to improve your nutrition, monitor your heart health, or manage your weight, the providers at Howard Health and Wellness can help you reach your wellness goals.

Give us a call at 239-331-2285 to schedule a visit with Dr. Howard at our office in Naples. 

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