Friday, September 17, 2021

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    Is Salt A Boon Or A Bane?

    Sodium chloride or what you call as table salt is found in almost everything you eat.
    It is found naturally in many foods and added to others during the manufacturing and used as a flavoring agent at home and restaurants.

    Salt on wooden background

    Most of the times, salt is linked with high blood pressure which on chronic intake affects our arteries and thus increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, heart failure, and kidney disease. Due to such importance, various standards have been laid down on the consumption of salt.
    But since not everyone can benefit from the reduced sodium intake, these are all controversial numbers.

    Necessary for health

    Sodium is one important nutrient required in our diet. It is responsible mainly for keeping the extracellular and intracellular fluid of the body in balance, maintains the nerve and muscle function. The maintenance of sodium levels in the body is done by the kidney through excretion in urine and also by sweating.

    Linkage to blood pressure

    It’s been known since a long time that sodium increases blood pressure in people with already elevated levels.
    Most people believe that the link between salt and high BP was first identified somewhere in France.

    Yet, it wasn’t until the late 1940s that this connection became widely recognized when the scientist Walter Kempner demonstrated that a low-salt rice diet could lower blood pressure in 500 people with elevated levels.

    Since then, a strong relationship between excessive sodium intake and high blood pressure has been established.

    People with high blood pressure, diabetes, and chronic kidney disease, as well as older adults,  are seen to be more sensitive to the blood-pressure raising effects of sodium.

    Daily requirements

    People should limit their sodium intake to control blood pressure.
    It is estimated that our body needs only 186mg of sodium per day to function properly.

    However, it would almost be impossible to consume this little, still, meet your energy needs and get the recommended intake of other important nutrients.

    Therefore, the World Health Organisation recommends that healthy adults should consume 2,300 mg of sodium per day.
    Due to the increased sodium loss through sweat, this doesn’t apply to highly active people like competitive athletes or workers who are exposed to heat.
    Some studies have also shown that underconsumption of salt also increases the risk of heart attacks and causes neuromuscular damage to the body. So neither underconsumption is good nor overconsumption. We cannot comment much on this due to the limited amount of studies available.

    How to control blood pressure?

    Instead of only cutting back on salt, you should try some other methods to reduce your blood pressure. For instance


    Exercising at least 30 mins daily not only keeps your body fit but also keeps your electrolytes in check. It reduces the risk of blood pressure, heart problems, and several other diseases. Minimum requirement of exercise to keep blood pressure in check is 150mins /week which can be divided as 30-35mins /day or 1 hour/day for 5days a week. Moderate type of exercise is recommended.

    Consuming more fruits and vegetables

    Most of the people do not eat enough fruits and vegetables. What they don’t realize is the fact that these vegetables like beetroot, spinach, lettuce contain potassium and magnesium which keeps their blood pressure in check. You should increase the consumption of green vegetables and fresh fruits and focus mainly on a high fiber and high protein diet. Cut back on the fats especially trans fat and saturated fats. Refined carbohydrates and simple carbohydrates should also be restricted.

    Other lifestyle changes that are needed are a limitation of alcohol intake and smoking. Both of these directly cause damage to your body and not only increase your blood pressure but also increase the risk of other diseases.

    So, if we look into these lifestyle changes, we would realize that doing them would only bring a positive change into our lives. Not only we get to control our blood pressure but also save ourselves from many diseases.

    So why not cut back on some salt and welcome a healthier life ahead?

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