Posted on 12 Oct 2012

How Sodium Can Play a Factor In Hypertension

Salt is the most popular food additive which is used to enhance the flavour of food. Forty percent of salt is sodium. Sodium, together with potassium, chloride and bicarbonate, functions as electrolyte in our bodies. Electrolytes are substances that become ions in solution and acquire the capacity to conduct electricity. Sodium functions as one of the major positive ions in our bodies.

Sodium plays a role in critical body functions by regulating the entire amount of water in the body and the transmission of sodium in and out of cells. The movement of sodium also plays a vital role in the generation and transmission of electrical impulses in the brain, nervous system and muscles. An inadequate level of sodium in the body potentially causes cells to malfunction and may result in death.

While sodium is essential to our bodies, too much salt in your diet is linked to hypertension and other related cardiovascular diseases. Both sodium and hypertension have a positive relationship. While excess sodium can be excreted by the kidneys in the urine, when we ingest too much salt, the kidneys cannot keep up with the removal of excess sodium. The increased levels of sodium begin to attract water, resulting in a ballooning blood volume.

This causes your heart to have to work harder to pump the increased blood volume to all parts of the body. Blood pressure is elevated. When your heart has to work very hard for too long, your heart muscle becomes fatigued and weakens.

In addition, when the heart pumps hard, it exerts a powerful force on the walls of your arteries when blood circulates through your system. When blood flows through your arteries with too much force, the walls of your arteries become damaged. Rough spots develop on your arterial walls, which start to trap fat and calcium resulting in the build up of plaque.

Plaque both narrows and stiffens your blood vessels. This impedes smooth blood flow and the organs and body tissues may start to be deprived of life-giving oxygen and nutrients. Eventually, heart and kidney failure, coronary heart disease, stroke and eye damage will very likely kick in. Your cardiovascular system will also find that regulating blood pressure and body temperature becomes increasingly difficult.

This damage is not immediately apparent. It invades your body slowly over time, which is why hypertension is often called the “silent killer”. There are no symptoms, and you won’t feel anything till the damage is fairly extensive.

An adult needs only an average of about five grams of salt everyday for your body to function. Most people take in about 10 times that amount daily. Folks suffering from hypertension should lower their intake of salt to about 1500 milligrams a day.

Almost 80% of the average person’s daily salt intake comes from processed foods. Eliminating processed foods from your diet will instantly bring your salt intake close to the recommended level. Eating only natural and fresh foods, going on a low sodium diet, as well as buying canned food and other low sodium diet foods that contain only 100 milligrams or less per serving will help to further trim your salt intake. Any means to cut your sodium intake will help to improve your health in the long run.

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