Salt and Heart Disease
Salt and Heart Disease | Skipping a Few Pinches a Day May Reduce Your Risk
Skipping a Few Pinches a Day May Reduce Your Risk
Decreasing your risk for heart disease could be as easy as reducing your salt intake by just a few pinches a day, according to a recent study.
The study, published this month in the journal BMJ Nutrition, Prevention, & Health, looked at salt intake and heart health in China, a country known to have one of the highest daily salt intakes in the world. About 40% of all deaths in China are linked to heart disease.
Researchers wanted to learn if reducing salt intake could reduce one’s risk for heart disease. They focused on reducing daily salt intake by just one gram — which is the equivalent of just three pinches of table salt.
The results of the study showed that tiny reduction in daily salt intake could lower a person’s blood pressure enough to reduce a person’s risk of heart disease and stroke. In addition, that change could reduce one’s risk for chronic kidney disease and stomach cancer.
The benefits were present regardless of age or gender, but researchers believe people who are middle or older age, diabetic, or suffering from kidney disease, experience even more benefit from salt reduction.
Experts say reducing daily salt intake is something that nearly everyone can benefit from. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says, on average, Americans consume about 3.4 grams per day — well above the U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommendation of 2.3 grams (2,300 milligrams). The American Heart Association says while a maximum of 2.3 grams per day is ok for healthy individuals with no risk factors, most Americans should consume less than 1.5 grams (1,500 milligrams) per day, especially if they have high blood pressure.
So what does that much salt look like? Well, 2,300 milligrams of salt is less than half a teaspoon. If you think about the salt you add to food daily and combine that with the salt contained in pre-packaged food, you are most likely exceeding the recommended guidelines.
If you’re wondering how to cut back on your salt intake, the Centers for Disease Control say that there are ten common foods that make up more than 40% of the average American’s daily sodium intake:
• Breads and rolls
• Cold cuts and cured meats
• Burritos and tacos
• Snacks like chips, popcorn, pretzels, snack mixes and crackers
• Eggs and omelets
Researchers point out that nearly all restaurant food and highly processed foods are high in sodium. And if the sodium isn’t high, the sugar usually is. The American Heart Association indicates that more than 70% of the sodium we eat comes from processed and restaurant food. Only about 11% comes from food prepared and cooked at home.
Following a lower sodium diet is considered one of the most difficult dietary changes to make, because not only is sodium hidden in many processed foods, but our palates are also accustomed to the flavor.
For anyone looking to reduce their sodium intake, it is often easier to make foods at home using fresh and unprocessed ingredients. While this requires more time in planning and preparing, the result is often tastier and most definitely healthier.
Other tips to reduce your salt intake:
Buy fresh foods: Pre-packaged foods such as canned vegetables or fruit, snacks, frozen meats or fish, and ready-to-make meals often contain added sodium for preservation.
Read labels to track sodium: Experts recommend starting by reading the labels of the food you are eating and tracking sodium for a week to get a baseline, then try to reduce your intake from there.
Get rid of the obvious culprits: Foods such as chips, popcorn, packaged snacks, and certain condiments like ketchup or barbeque sauce are known to be high in sodium
Spice it up: Rather than relying on salt and sugar to add flavor to your foods, turn to your spice rack. Spices like turmeric, cayenne, ginger, oregano, and garlic can add punch without adding sodium.
Look for potassium: Did you know that potassium and sodium work together to balance the fluids in your body? If you cut back on sodium, try to increase your potassium by eating foods like bananas, avocados, and mushrooms.
Choose protein carefully: Most processed meats are very high in sodium. Opt instead for lean meats and fatty fish.
If you’re unsure about your risk factors for heart disease, talk to your doctor. Even if your risk factors are minimal, chances are your overall health would benefit from a reduction in salt intake.
Remember, it doesn’t take much — just a few pinches less every day can keep your heart healthier!
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