Salt-Laden Foods can Harm Your Heart in 30 Minutes
Salt-Laden Foods can Harm Your Heart in 30 Minutes
Those French fries may look relatively harmless but a new study shows this salty snack can harm your arteries in just 30 minutes, even those who have healthy blood pressure. The study is published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and is led by Researcher and Author, Kacie M. Dickinson, from The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in Adelaide, Australia. Dickinson noted the same response after a meal high in saturated fats which we already know can damage blood vessels in the long-term. The study showed the impact of high salt food by giving one group a low-salt version of tomato soup and another group with 10 times more salt. Each serving size was one cup. After the soup was consumed, the volunteers were asked to have their blood pressure taken using an ultra sound machine which measure how much the arteries widened as the blood rushed back through during deflation of the cuff. The same experience was repeated between the two groups so those who at the high-salt soup received the low-salt version the second time. Consistently, the arteries of people who got the high-salt soup widened about half as much as those who consumed the low salt version. The effect passed in about two hours. By using an ultrasound machine, scientists were able to detect changes in blood vessel function which shows one of the earliest stages of atherosclerosis where fat accumulates in the blood vessels. Over time, this can lead to blockages in the blood vessels causing strokes and heart attacks. When the heart pumps blood through the arteries, nitric oxide is released making the arterial walls relax, allowing the vessels to expand more easily to carry the blood flow. Salt and fat block the release of nitric oxide which helps support the cardiovascular system laying the stage for atherosclerosis. When the arterial lining is challenged and doesn’t work as well because of a lack of nitric oxide release, then it makes it easier for cholesterol to stick to the arteries. Dr. Peter Counihan, an Associate Professor at the University of Pittsburgh Cardiovascular Institute points out that salt can have permanent side effects, high blood pressure being one of them. All good things in moderation and be wary of the salt content of foods. During the past two decades, countless new foods have been introduced in restaurants and most of them are loaded with salt, fat and sugar using core ingredients such as meat, vegetables, potatoes and bread. Potato skins are a good example of this where the potato is hollowed out, deep fried for a strong, fat base. Then a combination of bacon bits, sour cream and cheese is added with the result being fat on top of fat on top of fat, much of it loaded with salt. Salt begins to work on your kidneys making your body hold on to more water. This extra water raises your blood pressure and puts strain on your kidneys, arteries, heart and brain. Eating salt raises the amount of sodium in your bloodstream resulting in high blood pressure, putting strain on the delicate blood vessels that lead to the kidneys. Over time, this strain can damage the kidneys making it difficult for them to filter out unwanted toxic waste products which can build up in the body. This can lead to kidney disease or failure because they can no longer filter the blood and the body slowly becomes poisoned by its own toxic waste. If you have high blood pressure and are being treated with a diuretic medication, this makes the kidneys remove more fluid from the bloodstream. Because the sodium in salt counteracts this effect, reducing your salt intake will make your blood pressure medicine more effective.
Salt Damages the ArteriesEating too much salt puts extra strain on the inside of your arteries. As a result, the artery walls become stronger and thicker which makes the space inside the arteries smaller raising blood pressure even more. Over the years, this cycle of increasing blood pressure ultimately leads to the arteries bursting or becoming so narrow that they clog up entirely. The organs throughout the body become starved of oxygen of blood from the arteries and end up lacking nutrients they so desperately need. This can result in the organs being damaged and can be fatal.
Matters of the Heart
One organ that suffers from too much salt is the heart if the arteries are damaged leading to the heart. At first, it may cause a slight reduction in the amount of blood reaching the heart. This may lead to angina (sharp pains in the chest when being active). With this condition the cells in the heart don't work as well as they should because they are not receiving enough oxygen and nutrients. However, lowering blood pressure may help to alleviate some of the problems and reduce the risk of greater damage. If you continue to eat too much salt, over time, the damage caused by the extra blood pressure may become so severe that the arteries burst or become completely clogged. If this happens, then the part of the heart that was receiving the blood no longer gets the oxygen and nutrients it needs and dies. The result is a heart attack. The best way to prevent a heart attack is to stop the arteries becoming damaged. And one of the best ways of doing this is keep your blood pressure down by eating less salt.
The Risk of Stroke
Eating too much salt raises your risk of a stroke because it damages the arteries leading to the brain. At first, it may cause a slight reduction in the amount of blood reaching the brain. This may lead to dementia (known as vascular dementia). The brain doesn’t work as well because it is not receiving enough oxygen and nutrients. Lowering blood pressure naturally can reduce the risk of damage. If you continue to eat too much salt then, over time, the damage caused by high blood pressure may become so severe that the arteries burst or become completely clogged. The part of the brain that was receiving the blood no longer gets the oxygen and nutrients it needs and dies. The result is a stroke, where you lose the ability to do the things that part of the brain used to control. The best way to prevent a stroke is to stop the arteries becoming damaged. And one of the best ways of doing this is keep your blood pressure down by eating less salt.
How to eat less salt
One of the quickest ways to lower your blood pressure (especially if you have high blood pressure) is to eat less salt. An adult should eat no more than 1 teaspoon of salt a day, but most of us eat much more than this because most of the salt is ‘hidden.’ A majority of the salt eaten is in processed foods like breads, breakfast cereals, pre-packaged and fast food. Only 20% comes from the salt we add while cooking or eating at the table at home.
Don’t be overly concerned about the exact amount of salt you eat. The aim is to reduce the amount of salt you eat as much as possible, not to keep an exact tally of the amount you eat. (One Teaspoon of salt a day is the maximum you should eat, and the less you eat the better.)
When you do season with salt at home, use sea salt which is full of minerals and does not elevate blood pressure as much as regular table salt.
The best approach is to try to always eat foods with the lowest salt level.
At first, food without salt can taste bland, but don’t give up. It's just the same as giving up sugar in tea. After a few weeks your taste buds will adjust and you will start to enjoy food with less salt. In fact, you'll wonder how you ever ate food that was so salty!