Don’t Pass The Salt, PLEASE!

You know that if you are carrying around too much fat for your frame, it’s not good for your health.  You know that if you smoke, it’s not good for your health.  You know that too much alcohol is not good for your health. 

But did you know that eating too much salt is even worse than all of those?  That’s because a high salt intake is the major cause of hypertension, which boosts your risk of dying of a heart attack or stroke more than high cholesterol, obesity, smoking, or any other risk factor does.

Cutting back on salt not only lowers your blood pressure, but it lowers the risk for heart attacks and strokes.  Consider that high blood pressure was responsible for one death out of every six in 2005, and it’s clear it’s time we all wake up and consider our salt intake!

Even if you don’t have high blood pressure now, odds are great that sooner or later you will.  Blood pressure tends to drift upward as people age and they have a long-term exposure to sodium.  And even if you don’t have a blood pressure at or over the 140 over 90 predominantly used to classify hypertension, many people have what is known as “pre-hypertension.”  Though technically not high, it’s above normal, and worse, the damage is being done.

Frankly, the medical establishment really doesn’t know just where the line is when blood pressure is too high, and chances are if you wait to be diagnosed with high blood pressure, you can already have damage to your heart, vascular system, kidneys and brain.  High-salt diets also increase the calcium excretion in the kidneys, which may be a factor in osteoporosis.

Okay, there’s no doubt we need to watch our salt intake.  Knowing the problem is only the start of the battle however.  Cutting back on adding salt at the table is a good beginning, but the problem is that 75 to 80 per cent of the salt we consume is in prepared foods. 

Almost every processed food has sodium included, and usually far more than you would expect.  You figure on salt in savory foods, but there’s also a lot in sweet foods.  For example, consider vanilla instant pudding made from a mix.  One half-cup serving has 300mg of sodium, and how many people only eat a half-cup serving?  And even if you did stop at half a cup, that one sweet dessert has used up 1/5 to 1/8 of the recommended 1,500 to 2,400 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day for healthy adults.  That may not sound like much, but remember, that’s what’s in the sweet stuff.  Savory food has much more!

And packaged or ready-to-eat foods aren’t nearly as bad as the salt we ingest when we eat out.  A McDonald’s Big Mac has 1,040mg of sodium, Outback Steakhouse Bloomin’ Onion and sauce has 5,510mg and Red Lobster’s Broiled Seafood Platter with broccoli has 1,810mg.  Even salads are full of sodium, like Olive Garden’s Garden-fresh Salad with Italian dressing at 1,930mg.

One meal out and you’ve shot most of your entire day’s sodium allowance, and sometimes more!

Obviously, cutting your sodium intake isn’t the easiest thing in the world to accomplish.  In times past, our ancestors mostly raised their own food, and did their own cooking.  They had total control of the salt on their food,  and wouldn’t have had near the problem with sodium.  Today, however, most people can’t take the time to cook all of their meals so they can control the amount of sodium they eat, or want to give up ever eating at a restaurant.

However, the health risks make it worthwhile to try to cut back where ever you can, lowering your salt intake as close to the recommended levels as you can manage.

After all, who wants to be the one in six to die because of problems with high blood pressure?

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