These days we tend to see a lot of people freaking out about things like is this food ‘gluten free?’, ‘Dairy Free?’ ‘wheat free?’ but people seem to have forgotten the obvious and more dangerous food stuffs that we still add to our diets every day and one that is added to a lot of processed, although seemingly healthy, foods. SALT.
Salt is that old school these days that it, along with saturated fat, seems to slip under the radar for a lot of people, who are too busy focusing on gluten, sugar and other carbs to worry about the amount of salt they are eating. Now don’t get me wrong, we all need small amounts of salt in our diets, and many of us are very aware of the risks associated with high salt intakes, however many of us have forgotten.
What are the risks?
Increased risk of hypertension – Hypertension (high blood pressure) comes about when the pressure exerted by your blood flow against the vessel walls becomes to great. A blood pressure reading of above 139/89 is enough to count as hypertension, with sever cases being in the range of 150+/100+. Anyone who experiences hypertension is at increased risk of suffering strokes or heart attacks. The scary thing about blood pressure is that hypertension has almost no obvious symptoms unless it reaches extreme levels and even then it is just red faced and sweat, but also that increasing blood pressure even in healthy ranges of 120-139/80-89 is still enough to put you at risk. Reducing your salt intake is proven to help reduce the level of hypertension displayed by an individual.
Increased risk of suffering Strokes – This ties in with hypertension as the pressure of the blood against the walls of the artery, veins, or capillaries can cause it ti burst causing a brain hemorrhage or bleed which causes strokes. Stroke is the third largest killer in the UK and the leading cause of adult disability. With more than 150,000 cases in the UK alone every year this is a major issue and one that can be helped and reduced by simply reducing your salt intake in your diet.
Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) – This occurs when the hearts oxygenated blood supply is blocked or reduced leading to heart failure or heart attacks. This is the UK’s biggest killer with one in four men, and one in every six women dying from the disease. With Approximately 300,000 cases annually. Salt is a main cause of CHD due to a mixture of hypertension and clotting factors and thickening of the heart muscle, resulting in reduced blood flow to the heart muscle and an increased risk of developing the disease.
Osteoporosis – An estimated 3 million people in the UK suffer with some from of osteoporosis and this can be heavily linked with salt intake. A diet high in salt can cause calcium to be leached from your bones and excreted in your urine. Combined with hypertension also heavily linked with salt intake this only speeds up the problem, causing severely weakened bones and a low mineral density. With post menopausal women at an even greater risk it is paramount that we reduce salt in our diets in order to prevent diseases like this affecting us as we age.
Vascular Dementia – Vascular Dementia is the second most common form of dementia after Alzheimer’s disease and affects more than 150,000 adults in the UK today. It’s effects include reduced brain function, memory problems, and reduction in language skills, judgement and motor control. Linked heavily with strokes and hypertension this all can be related back to salt intake. As we already know salt intake increases your risk of developing hypertension and puts you at a greater risk of having a stroke. Both of these are directly related to Vascular Dementia.
Increased risk of Stomach Cancer – more than 1500 cases of stomach cancer treated each year in the UK can be directly associated with salt intake, this accounts for more than 25% of the total figures for stomach cancers. The bacterium Helicobacter pylori is the major component here and causing inflammation of the stomach lining and leading to stomach ulcers and cancer. Salt plays a role in damaging the lining of the stomach and it has been linked with increasing the rate of growth of H. pylori, in both cases making your stomach more susceptible to the bacteria and cancer risk.
Diabetes – Salts links with hypertension are the main issue here. Although salt itself does not cause diabetes, high blood pressure can worsen the effects of diabetes ling term especially if not carefully managed through diet, medication and exercise.
Asthma – A high salt diet is not currently thought to cause asthma, but it can aggravate the symptoms and in some cases cause severe reactions.
The current recommended amount is 6mg per day for adults. In the UK the average intake at present sits in the range of 8.5mg/ day. Ideally we should be well below this 6 and should treat 6 as the maximum daily dose.
The easiest ways to reduce your salt intake is to not add any form of salt to your foods and to avoid processed foods, frozen foods or stocks high in salt when possible.