Salt is a mainstay on the vast majority of dinner tables as it adds flavour to just about any dish. Of course, with takeaway food and other convenience meals the quantities in our diets can quickly spiral out of control. Most of us are aware that we shouldn’t have to much of it, but the actual impact of doing so is not known by everyone. But what exactly is the impact of excessive amounts in our diets?
What Are the Recommended Levels of Salt?
Before we jump into the effects of excessive salt it’s useful to know just what constitutes ‘excessive’. The daily allowance for adults and children are as follows:
- Adults and children aged 11 and over are recommended to consume no more than 6g of salt (2.5g of sodium) a day, which is about a teaspoon.
- For children aged from 7 to 10 years it should be no more than 5g (2g of sodium)
- For children aged 4 to 6 years it should be no more than 3g (1.2g of sodium)
- For children aged 1 to 3 years it should be no more than 2g (0.8g of sodium)
- For babies under 1 their formula or breast milk will contain sufficient minerals for their development.
It’s no doubt that these targets are hard to stay within and most of us exceed them regularly. However, by making a concerted effort to hit these targets the potential for developing the following health issues drops dramatically.
High Blood Pressure
The primary health impact of a high amount of salt in one’s diet is high blood pressure. This is because the kidneys must work harder to process lots of salt. This then requires your arteries to become stronger and harder, subsequently restricting blood flow around the body. This can then result in the following outcomes:
Because blood flow from the heart is slowed down within the arteries leading away from it severe problems can occur. Heart attack and heart failure are the two most serious outcomes as the organ must work much harder to pump the blood, putting more strain on the muscle than is necessary or safe. If the heart no longer has sufficient strength to pump it can fail.
The other major consequence of a high salt diet is blood flow being restricted to the brain. This can cause mini-stroke or stroke as the brain is starved of essential blood. It is also possible for the blood vessels to weaken and clot causing an aneurysm, which if ruptured can be fatal. Restricted blood flow to the brain can also alter cognitive performance and memory.
Other issues can involve; restricted kidney function, blood vessel damage in the eyes causing vision loss, and various metabolic conditions such as high cholesterol and diabetes.
How to Manage Your Salt Intake
With so many associated health risks with high salt intake you may be feeling understandably concerned about your own dietary habits. It’s important not to become obsessive about salt, but there are adjustments you can make to help keep intake at a healthy level. Being sparing with consumption with takeaways is one major area, as they are big offender when it comes to having a high salt content. Additionally, adding extra salt to your food should be done frugally or not at all. Finally, it’s important to remember that you will likely get your required salt and sodium intake from natural sources of food, so consider any extra as a treat to be had on occasion.