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When checking an ingredient label, you generally pay close attention to ingredients such as added sugars and sodium content; two ingredients that are harmless in moderation but with too much, can contribute to multiple health risks.  If you’re aware of the items you’re eating regularly, it is likely that anything processed has sodium in it. Even items that you think may be healthier options, like canned vegetables, for example, often have higher sodium content.  

Additionally, it’s important to recognize that sodium isn’t necessarily bad for you, in fact, it’s a mineral that your body needs to function properly.  Sodium helps control your body’s fluid balance, and even affects muscle function. However, this only applies when used in moderation. Major health organizations, such as the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the American Heart Association (AHA) recommend no more than 2300 mg of sodium per day, with the preferred amount being 1500 mg. High sodium intake is extremely common in the United States, as many Americans consume well over the recommended amount, usually without even realizing.  What are some of the risks that come from consuming too much sodium?

High Blood Pressure

An individual with a diet that is high in sodium is typically at a higher risk of developing high blood pressure.  According to the AHA, 77.9 Million American adults suffer from high blood pressure, and children that have a high sodium diet are twice as likely to develop high blood pressure when compared to children with a low sodium diet.  As sodium enters your bloodstream, it also pulls water into your blood vessels; this increases the total amount of blood inside your blood vessels, thus increasing your blood pressure. Unmanaged high blood pressure can cause damage to your arteries, heart, and kidneys.  Serious damage to these areas could lead to chronic illnesses such as coronary artery disease and heart or kidney failure.

Weight Gain

The bloat you feel after a medium french fry from your favorite fast food restaurant is a direct result of high sodium consumption.  Excess sodium intake can often increase body weight by two to three pounds within a short period, due to fluid retention (water weight).  This is why you may notice your face or hands become a little puffy after consuming something with a lot of salt.  Weight gain from sodium is usually temporary once you bring your levels back down to the generally recommended amount.  However, a regular diet high in salt can easily contribute to weight gain due to increased amounts of water weight.

Other Diseases

While your heart’s health receives significant impact from excess sodium consumption, many other diseases and issues can result from too much salt.  Vital organs such as your kidneys, brain, and eyes can be negatively affected by too much salt consumption due to the risks from high blood pressure.  Damage to the blood vessels in the brain can deprive it of necessary oxygen and nutrients. When the blood vessels in your brain are severely damaged, this could potentially prevent blood flow and lead to a stroke.

Your diet is an essential part of your overall health.  Do what you can to limit your sodium intake by cutting down on foods high in salt, and substituting with more natural options.