Sodium: The Silent Killer - How to Keep Your Sodium Intake in Check
You’ve probably heard it before, but it is always worth reiterating the harmful effects of sodium on our health. While sodium is found in much of the processed, junk, and fast food products we consume today, high sodium consumption present many health risks that everyone should be aware of.
This article will discuss the health risks associated with high sodium consumption, especially for those who suffer from blood pressure-related issues. The article will outline solutions to cut down on sodium intake and reduce the harmful effects of sodium on one’s body.
Risks of High Sodium Intake
The most common and deadly risk that is presented through high sodium intake is high blood pressure. Sodium causes high blood pressure because it retains excess fluid in the body. This, in turn, creates an added burden on the heart to pump blood through the body’s blood vessels. Increased burden on the heart is very likely to result in increased blood pressure.
However, the health risks of high sodium intake do not stop at high blood pressure. This is because an increase in the average blood pressure, also known as hypertension, can lead to many other conditions and health problems.
The following list contains some of the most common health problems associated with high blood pressure.
- Heart Failure
- Stomach Cancer
- Kidney Disease
Sodium is also known as a silent killer, mostly because it slowly damages the walls of the body’s blood vessels. This can, in turn, lead to a whole host of health problems such as the few listed above.
High sodium consumption also causes more direct and immediate harm to the body through electrolyte imbalance, also known as Hypernatremia. When a person’s blood-sodium levels are elevated, they can experience multiple symptoms, including dehydration, profuse sweating, fever, vomiting, diarrhea, hyperventilation, and frequent urination.
It is best for those with high blood pressure to cut down on sodium products even more than regular people. This is because even the slightest elevation in blood-sodium concentrations in hypertension patients can significantly increase blood pressure even more, putting the person at a greater risk of blood-pressure-related conditions such as stroke or heart failure.
Recommended Daily Sodium Intake
Of course, the human body needs a little bit of sodium to function properly. While sodium should be consumed carefully, it cannot be eliminated from a person’s diet completely. For this reason, many wonder what the recommended amount of daily sodium intake is and how they can achieve this.
According to the American Heart Association, recommended amount of sodium that a person should consume daily is 2300 milligrams (mg). Unfortunately, research tells us that the average American adult consumes up to 3400 mg of sodium per day, much higher than the recommended amount.
For patients with high blood pressure, the recommended amount for daily sodium intake is much lower than the average person because of the higher risks to hypertension-related conditions. The American Heart Association recommends that high blood pressure patients should consume no more than 1500 mg of sodium per day.
Food Products High in Sodium
Contrary to what many people might believe, most sodium in the average American’s diet does not come from table salt. Research has found that 70% of all sodium eaten by Americans comes from processed and packaged food products.
This is the main reason why Americans today consume so much sodium in their diet and why most people find it so difficult to reduce their sodium intake to the recommended 2300 mg a day. Sodium is everywhere in the food supply chain, and getting away from it takes a good deal of planning and effort.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), close to 40% of the sodium consumed by the average American comes from the following food products.
- Deli meat sandwiches
- Processed snack foods (chips, popcorn, etc.)
- French Fries
How to Keep Your Sodium Intake in Check
You can take a few steps to keep your sodium intake in check and avoid many of the potential health risks that high sodium consumption brings to the table.
Cut Back on Processed and Packaged Food
The first thing you can do is cut down on or eliminate packaged and processed food products from your diet. This will help to decrease the vast majority of high sodium sources in your diet.
Read the Nutritional Facts Label
In the circumstance that you cannot avoid consuming processed or packaged food, you can keep your sodium intake in check by reading the nutritional facts label on the back of every packaged food product. Here you can find out how much sodium is in the food you are buying and purchase packaged food with relatively less sodium.
Eat Fresh and Non-Processed Food
Switching your dietary intake to mostly fresh and non-processed food will help you substantially decrease the amount of sodium in your diet. These can be bought from a fresh food market, a farmer’s market, or an organic produce store.
Some of the best foods to incorporate into your diet to keep sodium intake are the following:
- Unsalted nuts
- Coconut Milk
- Almond Milk
Fresh, non-processed plant-based foods like the few listed above are very healthy and nutritious options that can help keep your sodium intake below the recommended daily intake limit of 2300 mg.
Research also shows that those who stick to a mostly plant-based diet have a lower blood pressure than those with a mostly livestock-based diet. This is because plant-based foods have lower sodium levels than other kinds of food naturally.
Other than changes to your diet, a few lifestyle changes can be made to keep your blood-sodium levels in check. Exercise, of course, is a great way to remain healthy and reduces sodium by forcing your body to sweat it out. Moreover, exercise helps increase the blood pumping capacity of your heart, lowering the risks associated with high blood pressure.
You can even reduce blood-sodium levels by regularly sitting in a sauna. This will help your body sweat out all the excess sodium in your blood. Other lifestyle changes include switching regular table salt to potassium salts, which should be much less detrimental to health over time.
Lastly, something as simple as washing canned foods with water before preparing them can also reduce the sodium in the food by a whopping 40%. That’s more than enough to keep your sodium intake in check if you consume many canned food products.
High sodium intake is associated with many health risks and problems, including high blood pressure and the various health conditions associated with hypertension.
By avoiding processed and packaged foods and following some of the other dietary and lifestyle tips outlined in this article, you can ensure that your daily sodium intake does not exceed the recommended levels.
So start taking care of your health by fighting back against the silent and highly prevalent killer that is sodium.