Guest Blogger: Erica Phung, Senior Government Relations Director, Southern California
If you’re reading this blog – you’ve obviously been thinking about heart-health lately, which is a wonderful thing. Maybe you walk your dog after work, or even prepare healthy meals for your family or friends. And just maybe you’ve cut down on the sugar-sweetened beverages. But what about sodium?
Sodium you say? Wait – it couldn’t be all that bad, right?
Sodium is a mineral that’s essential for life. It’s regulated in the body by your kidneys, and it helps control your body’s fluid balance. It also helps send nerve impulses and affects muscle function. But most of us go far over the AHA/ASA guideline of 1,500mg – without even knowing it.
When there’s extra sodium in your bloodstream, it pulls water into your blood vessels, increasing the total volume of blood inside. With more blood flowing through, blood pressure increases. It’s like turning up the water supply to a garden hose — the pressure in the hose increases as more water is blasted through it. Over time, high blood pressure may overstretch or injure the blood vessel walls and speed the build-up of gunky plaque that can block blood flow. The added pressure also tires out the heart by forcing it to work harder to pump blood through the body. Increased blood pressure is very dangerous – and is known as being the ‘silent killer’ because its symptoms aren’t always obvious.
Even if you haven’t been diagnosed with high blood pressure, eating less sodium can help blunt the rise in blood pressure that occurs with age, and reduce your risk of heart attack, heart failure, stroke, kidney disease, osteoporosis, stomach cancer and even headaches. The extra water in your body can also lead to bloating and weight gain.
Breaking up is hard to do, especially if it’s with Sneaky Salt. But we’re here to help. First, make a pledge to reduce sodium in your diet here, secondly, do a little inventory of the sodium in your daily diet and see how close you are to the 1,500mg benchmark and make an action plan for you and your family. If you’re stumped, check out the resources and recipes here.
One estimate suggested that if Americans moved to an average intake of 1,500 mg/day sodium, it could result in a 25.6 % overall decrease in blood pressure and an estimated $26.2 billion in health care savings! Another estimate projected that achieving this goal would reduce deaths from cardiovascular disease by anywhere from 500,000 to nearly 1.2 million over the next 10 years! Breaking up with salt isn’t easy – but it could just save your life!