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The health risks of eating too much salt

  •   by Medihelp
  •   08 March 2016
  •   850 view(s)
Dietary salt provides your body with sodium, which is essential for life. Although consuming sodium in appropriate amounts is necessary, when you take in too much, it can cause a serious imbalance in your body, raising your risk for several potentially serious medical problems.

In recent years, studies have found that the brain responds to sodium similarly as to substances such as heroin, cocaine, and nicotine, which may explain why so many of us tend to overindulge in high-sodium foods. Unfortunately, too much of a good thing can actually prove to be deadly.

Here is how sodium can affect your health:

Sodium plays a key role in balancing the levels of fluid in our bodies by signalling to the kidneys when to retain water and when to get rid of water. A high-sodium diet can interfere with this delicate process and reduce kidney function. The result is less water removed from the body, which may lead to higher blood pressure. This excess strain on the kidneys can lead to kidney disease or exacerbate kidney problems in those already suffering from the condition.

High-sodium diets may also increase your risk of developing renal stones, also known as kidney stones. The main cause of kidney stones is urinary calcium, a mineral which is noted to increase in those with a high sodium intake.

Excessive calcium excretion in the urine is believed by some experts to increase the risk of losing bone density. According to experts, over long periods of time, this excessive calcium loss is associated with osteoporosis, especially in postmenopausal women.

Due to the effect that salt has on fluid retention, in some individuals excessive amounts of salt in their diet can lead to high blood pressure. High blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries as the heart pumps blood, and high blood pressure can lead to many serious conditions, such as stroke and heart failure.

Although blood pressure increases naturally with age, reducing your salt intake can help prevent your blood pressure from increasing unnecessarily.

Excessive salt in the diet can cause a symptom known as oedema. Oedema is characterized by swelling, particularly visible in the hands, arms, ankles, legs, and feet, caused by fluid retention. Excessive salt consumption commonly causes oedema; however, the symptom can be caused by a number of other health concerns ranging from menstruation to genetic disposition. Oedema is non-life threatening and is a symptom of another underlying health condition, rather than a condition on its own.

A 1996 study found that death from stomach cancer in both men and women was closely linked to salt consumption. High salt intake is also associated with stomach ulcers. The reason for this is not quite clear yet, but one study theorized that the salt may have an adverse effect on the mucous lining of the stomach and cause the stomach tissue to become abnormal and unhealthy.

What you can do to limit salt intake:
• Avoid adding salt to homemade dishes
• Use spices and herbs instead to flavour your food
• When you buy prepared and packaged foods, read the labels and buy those with less or no salt
• Eat more fresh food
• Select unsalted nuts or seeds, dried beans, peas and lentils
• Rinse canned vegetables under water before using
• Limit the amount of salty snacks you eat, such as chips and pretzels
• When dining out, ask for your dish to be prepared without added salt

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