AHA and ASA helps build healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke. A healthy diet and lifestyle are your best weapons in the fight against heart disease. The average American consumes more than twice the recommended amount. That is how the silent killer strikes. Test your knowledge of sodium and take the sodium quiz!
The Silent Killer 411
“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. 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. Here’s the scoop on high blood pressure, also known as the silent killer because its symptoms are not always obvious: It’s one of the major risk factors for heart disease, the No. 1 killer worldwide.
- The silent killer is the leading risk factor of women’s deaths in the U.S., and the second leading risk factor for death for men.
- One-third of American adults have high blood pressure. And 90 percent of American adults are expected to develop high blood pressure over their lifetimes.
- More than 40 percent of non-Hispanic black adults have high blood pressure. Not only is high blood pressure more prevalent in blacks than whites, but it also develops earlier in life.
Too Much Sodium
It doesn’t matter if you don’t have 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. No wonder the American Heart Association wants you to change your relationship with salt!
Kids aren’t immune to the heartbreak of too much sodium either. Nearly 80 percent of 1-3 year olds and more than 90 percent of 4-18 year-olds in the U.S. get too much sodium. This can start increasing their risk of high blood pressure when they are as young as 1 year old. Kids who have high-sodium diets are about 40 percent more likely to have elevated blood pressure than kids with lower-sodium diets. This puts them at higher risk for heart disease when they get older.”
Sea Salt vs Table Salt
“Sea salt has boomed in popularity in restaurants and supermarket aisles. Many gourmet chefs say they prefer it over table salt for its coarse, crunchy texture and stronger flavor. Manufacturers are using it in potato chips and other snacks because it’s “all natural,” and less processed than table salt. And some health-conscious consumers choose it because it contains minerals like magnesium.
In a survey conducted by the American Heart Association, 61 percent of respondents incorrectly agreed that sea salt is a low-sodium alternative to table salt. Table salt and most sea salts contain about 40 percent sodium by weight. Kosher salt and some sea salts may have larger crystal sizes than table salt, so they may have less sodium by volume (e.g., by teaspoon or tablespoon). A teaspoon of table salt has about 2,300 mg of sodium, but a teaspoon of sea salt or kosher salt may have less sodium because fewer crystals fit into the spoon.” Although it does take a conscious effort to keep sodium intake down, it’s one of the most important things we can do to keep our hearts healthy, and therefore keeps us living longer.
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