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Many of us know that too much salt (also called sodium) isn’t good for you, but how much is too much and what will it do to us?

When it comes to the effects of salt in your body, we are talking about sensitive systems and damage over long periods of time. As you would expect, there is some disagreement about the exact effects. The effects that I talk about here reflect the majority opinion of the scientists who specialize in human biology.

How much salt should I be eating?

The recommended upper limit of salt a healthy adult should have in a day is 5750 mg or 0.2 ounces (around a teaspoon). This is according to the USA Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture. If you are diabetic, have kidney disease, hypertension or are older than 51 that drops to 3750 mg or 0.13 ounces.

The problem is that there is a lot of salt in processed food. There is even salt in many unprocessed foods. So you could be getting more than the recommended upper limit without adding any salt to your food. In the USA, FDA efforts to regulate the amount of salt that can be added to processed food are ongoing. To get on top of your salt intake you may have to eat more unprocessed food and read the labels on your processed food more carefully.

High Blood Pressure (Hypertention)

It is thought that a high level of salt in your body inhibits the production nitric oxide. Nitric oxide widens blood vessels to allow blood to flow naturally. With less nitric oxide the blood has more resistance and your blood pressure rises.

Why is high blood pressure bad? Well over time it can cause heart attacks, kidney damage and strokes.

Stomach Cancer

There is a proven statistical link between high salt diets (more than 6g per day) and a higher risk of stomach cancer. A more recent study proved that high salt intake causes inflammation and stomach tissue damage, which leads to infection. Certain types of stomach infection can cause stomach cancer.

Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a condition that weakens your bones, which makes the more likely to fracture. People with high salt intake excrete more calcium in their urine, make them more susceptible to the disease. Women are more likely to getting Osteoporosis than men.

Weight gain

Salt attracts fluids like a sponge. If you have a lot of salt in your body, it keeps more water inside you than normal. This water increases the weight of your body. People with this condition frequently complain of back pain and loss of energy. The water can noticeably collect in the lower part of your body. If however you reduce your salt intake the weight can be lost quickly.

Effect of high blood pressure on the heart

Typically high blood pressure will first restrict veins leading to the heart. With less blood going to the heart you may experience sharp chest pains (angina). The cells in the heart then stop working properly because they aren’t getting enough nutrients and oxygen. At this point lowering blood pressure will reverse most of the problems.

If left untreated arteries may become completely block or burst. Parts of the heart that are starved of oxygen and nutrients can die, leading to a heart attack.

Effect of high blood pressure on the brain

If high blood pressure damage the arteries going to the brain, not enough blood gets to the brain. This can lead to dementia (vascular dementia). Alleviating blood pressure will reduce the symptoms of vascular dementia.

If the condition is left untreated veins in the brain may burst causing a stroke.

Conclusion

Clearly the effects of too much salt can be very unpleasant and even eventually fatal. Reducing your salt intake may be difficult, but ultimately necessary for living a long, healthy life



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