NEGATIVE IMPACT OF HIGH SALT (COMMON SALT) INTAKE ON OUR HEALTH
In the previous article, we have seen how Common Salt (sodium chloride) has become a part of our life, how much daily salt intake is sufficient for our body and how we unknowingly end up consuming too much salt through the food we eat,
Now let’s discuss one by one the health hazards associated with excess salt consumption:
HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE (HYPERTENSION):
Blood pressure is defined as the pressure exerted by the circulating blood on the walls of arteries.
Kidneys filter our blood to remove excess fluid and toxins from the body. This excess fluid and toxins filtered by kidneys are put that into our bladder and removed from the body as Urine. This process depends on a delicate balance between sodium and potassium levels in the blood. Eating excess salt raises the amount of sodium in our bloodstream and body fluids, which disturbs this delicate balance. It reduces the ability of kidneys to remove excess water from the blood. The volume of Blood increases which puts more pressure on the walls of blood vessels through which it is flowing.
An increased volume of blood puts extra strain on the inner walls of the arteries. To cope with this extra strain, walls of the arteries become thicker. This narrows the space inside them. The narrow space inside these arteries offers resistance to the smooth flow of blood through them. To overcome this resistance blood flows at higher pressure, which ultimately results in High blood pressure.
DAMAGE TO THE KIDNEYS:
The major function of our kidneys is the filtration of blood to remove unwanted toxins and excess water from it and send them to the bladder in the form of urine. When a person eats high salt diet over a prolonged period of time the levels of Sodium in our blood increase, which makes it difficult for the kidneys to remove excess fluid from the blood. Due to the retention of this fluid volume of blood increases, which ultimately increases blood pressure. Increased blood pressure puts extra strain on the ‘filtration units’ of our kidneys, if this situation persists for a longer duration, results in damage to the kidneys.
INCREASED RISK OF CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE:
We have already discussed that high salt consumption is associated with an increased risk of high blood pressure. As an effect of continuous high blood pressure, the inner walls of blood vessels become thickened and rigid. This makes their lumen narrow. It reduces the amount of blood flowing through them. Which means less amount of oxygen and nutrition reaches the organs supplied by these blood vessels. When such condition happens with heart musculature, it manifests as a chest pain (angina) & if this persists may result in the permanent damage and manifest as a heart attack (Myocardial Infarction)
Continuous high blood pressure may damage (injure) the walls of blood vessels. This condition may increase the risk of developing plaques (Cholesterol) on the inner walls of blood vessels which may create a blockage to the flow of blood/interrupt the blood flow to further escalate the problem.
High salt intake is associated with high blood pressure & persistent high blood pressure results in narrowing and stiffening of blood vessels. This reduces the amount of blood flowing through them. Thus, the heart has to pump blood at a greater force and intensity. If this continues for a longer duration it results in the damage to heart musculature and failure of heart function (Failure of heart as a pump).
High salt diet increases the levels of sodium in the human body. Excess of sodium causes retention of water within the body, this excess water retention may appear as a weight gain. But the problem is not limited to this, Excess salt intake increases endogenous production of fructose in our body. This fructose creates insulin and leptin resistance, increases appetite (Increased food intake) and favours excess fat deposition within our body and contributes to the development of obesity.
Excess salt in a diet can damage the protective inner lining of our stomach. Excess salt also favours the colonization of a particular bacteria called Helicobacter Pylori (Commonly associated with the development of Stomach cancer). Both of these mechanisms can work together as a risk factor for the development of stomach cancer.
INCREASED RISK OF KIDNEY STONES:
Eating High salt diet for a long duration results in the increased calcium levels in our urine. Presence of excess calcium in urine favours the development of renal (Kidney) stones.
Long-term intake food having high salt content results in increased concentration of sodium within our body. As we have already discussed higher sodium levels are associated with excess excretion of Calcium through the kidney. This excess of Calcium is removed from our bones, which makes them brittle (osteoporosis) and prone to injuries (fracture).
SWELLING (OEDEMA) IN THE BODY:
Oedema/Swelling in the body can occur in various diseases. Pertaining to this article we will limit our discussion to excess salt consumption as a risk factor for developing oedema in the body. Oedema (swelling/puffiness in the body) occurs as a result of retention water/fluid in the spaces between our cells and tissues.
When we consume salt in excess sodium levels increase, if this persists for a longer duration, our kidneys fail to excrete this extra sodium which it gets further accumulated in the body. This increases the retention of fluid within and in between the body tissues and cells & manifests as swelling (puffiness)/Oedema.
We have already studied that excess salt consumption in the diet is a risk factor for the development of high blood pressure. A headache may occur in case of increased blood pressure. Thus, salt intake may be an indirect cause for a headache.
EFFECT ON BRAIN (PROBLEM WITH MEMORY AND THINKING ABILITY):
High salt intake through food triggers a chemical reaction within our gut, which ultimately results in the reduction in blood supply to the brain cells. This can manifest as: Memory and thinking problems, reduced concentration, decreased analytical or problem-solving ability, etc.
We have discussed the Health problems associated with high salt intake in our diet, many of these health issues can be really very serious (sometimes fatal) if not managed adequately.
We should understand that these problems are easily preventable if we do some cautious efforts to reduce the amount of salt in our day to day diet.
But the question is;
HOW CAN WE REDUCE THE AMOUNT OF SALT IN OUR DIET?
The answer to this question is very easy, just follow some tips given below:
Avoid eating processed food or outside food (which most of the time contains a high amount of salt) on a daily/regular basis; Instead, try to eat home cooked food.
Try to limit the amount of salt you put while cooking food at home.
Avoid putting additional salt in vegetables or curries (already cooked) while eating (Salt added while cooking is sufficient).
Keep the amount of pickles, Sauces, chutneys and Papad to the minimum in regular diet.
Limit the consumption of carbonated/Aerated soft drinks and artificial juices to the minimum (It contains a high amount of salt).
‘Wealth’ is what enriches and ‘divine wealth’ is enrichment that comes along with grateful awareness that we owe this wealth to ‘The Divine’. We are talking here about the divine wealth that is ‘health’