New Research Says Less Salt May Add Years to Your Life

Women cooking together

Do you automatically reach for the salt shaker when you sit down to a meal? You may want to think twice if you’d like to reduce your risk of stroke and heart disease, and increase your lifespan.

Many recent studies support the idea that consuming less salt helps control high blood pressure, reducing your risk of cardiovascular disease. A new study, published Oct. 3, 2016 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, takes it a step further, finding that even small amounts of salt may increase your risk of premature death. Investigators at the Harvard School of Public Health discovered that over 24 years, people who consumed less than 1 teaspoon (2,300 mg) of salt per day, had a 25% lower risk of dying early compared to those who consumed 1.5 teaspoons (3,600 mg) of salt.

The good news from the study? Reducing your salt consumption may extend your life.

Why Does Salt Cause High Blood Pressure?

Salt (sodium) gives food flavor and preserves it. In your body, salt transmits nerve impulses, balances fluids, and contracts and relaxes muscle fibers.

However, too much salt causes your body to retain water, upsetting the water balance. Consistently retaining water can lead to an increase in blood pressure -- the pressure that blood exerts on the vessels as it travels through your body. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke.

According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the percentage of Americans who said they have high blood pressure rose nearly 10 percent from 2005 to 2009 to include nearly one-third of the population. And only about half of those with hypertension have it under control.

While many factors contribute to hypertension, including obesity, smoking, and not exercising regularly, limiting your salt intake is one easy way to help keep your blood pressure under control.

How Much Salt is Too Much?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 75% of the world's population consumes nearly twice the daily recommended amount of sodium. WHO says you should limit your salt intake to less than 2,000 mg a day, while the American Heart Association would like you to restrict it to less than 1,500 mg a day for “optimal heart health.” On average, Americans consume 3,400 mg of sodium per day.

5 Ways to Lower Your Salt Intake...and Your Blood Pressure

  • Keep your hands off the salt shaker. Don’t season food before tasting, and if you must add salt, do so sparingly.
  • Avoid processed foods like canned vegetables and soups, pasta sauces, frozen entrees, lunch meats, and snacks, which contain high levels of sodium.
  • Limit your use of condiments (soy sauce, salad dressings, ketchup, pickles, Worcestershire sauce) – another source of sodium.
  • Eat a diet that can help lower blood pressure, one that’s rich in fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, whole grains, fish, lean meats, poultry, beans, and nuts (unsalted, of course). This diet will also increase your intake of potassium (think bananas), which one study found reduces blood pressure and risk of stroke.
  • Try heart-healthy recipes on the LG Health Hub.
author name

Richard L. Grunden, MD

Richard L. Grunden, MD, is a family doctor with LG Health Physicians Family Medicine Susquehanna.

Education: A graduate of the Penn State College of Medicine and the Lancaster General Hospital Family Medicine Residency Program, Dr. Grunden’s areas of special interest include integrative medicine, patient education, and urgent care.

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About LG Health Hub

The LG Health Hub features breaking medical news and straightforward advice to help individuals of all ages make healthy choices and reach their wellness goals. The blog puts articles by trusted Lancaster General Health clinical experts, good 'n healthy recipes, videos, patient stories, and health risk assessments at your fingertips.

 

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