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What Are The Side Effects Of Eating Too Much Salt?

Our bodies need sodium in order to be healthy. But eating too much can do more harm than good! Unfortunately, 90% of Americans consume more than needed. Most of it comes from processed foods like frozen dinners and boxed meals.

Eventually, high salt intake can lead to serious complications. Here are the top 10 health risks that can develop.1

10 Health Risks Of Excess Salt Intake

1. Hypertension

When you eat too much sodium, your body tries to dilute it by retaining water. This places pressure on the blood vessels and leads to hypertension or high blood pressure. Your vessels eventually weaken, making it hard for the blood to flow through. It’s also the perfect setup for several chronic diseases.2 Unsurprisingly, reducing salt intake can lower your blood pressure in just a few weeks.3

effects of eating too much salt

2. Heart Disease

Eventually, hypertension can lead to heart disease. It is actually responsible for half of all cases.4 Heart disease is an umbrella term that covers multiple types of problems. Over time, they can lead to fatal complications.5 But lowering salt intake can reduce the risk of such problems.6

effects of eating too much salt

3. Heart Attack

When hypertension progresses, sometimes blood flow can’t get to the heart. When this happens, part of the muscle dies and a heart attack can happen. While most people survive, treatment calls for improving blood pressure through less sodium intake.7

effects of eating too much salt

4. Stroke

Hypertension can also block blood flow to the brain, causing a stroke. This leads to cell death and loss of brain function.8 In fact, 2/3 of strokes are caused by hypertension.9 Risk can be lowered with healthy salt intake, especially in the elderly.10

effects of eating too much salt

5. Heart Failure

Hypertension can also lead to a decline of heart function called heart failure. It can also happen after the heart is damaged from a heart attack. And while it can’t be reversed, limiting sodium can improve symptoms.11 If heart failure is already present, long-term salt intake can just worsen it.12

effects of eating too much salt

6. Osteoporosis

High salt intake encourages calcium excretion through the urine. Your bones try to make up for it by leaching out calcium. This causes the bones to become weak, increasing the risk for osteoporosis. As a result, falls and fractures are more common.13 However, lowering sodium can actually improve bone mass.14

effects of eating too much salt

7. Kidney Problems

When your bones release calcium into the blood, kidney stones can develop. This is a hard mass that forms from crystals in the urine.15 It’s very painful! Too much salt can aggravate existing kidney problems, too. This is because your kidneys are in charge of regulating fluid, which can be disrupted by high salt intake.16

effects of eating too much of salt

8. Cancer

Excess salt can damage the stomach lining and cause lesions. Over time, those lesions can turn into cancer.17 There’s also an increased risk of nose and throat cancer. Even breast cancer has been linked to high salt intake.18

effects of eating too much salt

9. Weight Gain

When the body holds on to water it causes weight gain.19 Also, eating high-sodium processed foods means that calorie and sugar intakes are high. This can contribute to weight gain and obesity, a major cause of cancer.20

effects of eating too much salt

10. Vascular Dementia

One in three stroke patients will develop vascular dementia, a loss of brain function that damages memory, language, and behavior.21 This isn’t a direct cause of high salt intake, but it can be prevented by lowering stroke risk through lowering consumption.

effects of eating too much salt

Your best bet is to aim for less than 2,300 milligrams of salt per day. Choose real, whole foods whenever possible. If you’re craving more flavor, use fresh herbs and spices. Your body will thank you!

References   [ + ]

1, 19. The Effects of Excessive Sodium on Your Health & Appearance. American Heart Association.
2, 6, 9, 13. Health Risks and Disease Related to Salt and Sodium. Harvard T. Chan School of Public Health.
3. Sodium: The Facts, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
4. Health Risks and Disease Related to Salt and Sodium, Harvard T. Chan School of Public Health.
5, 7. What is Cardiovascular Disease? American Heart Association.
8. Stroke. U.S. National Library of Medicine.
10. Turlova, Ekaterina and Feng Zhong-ping. “Dietary salt intake and stroke.” Acta Pharmacologica Sinica. 34.1 (2013):8-9.
11. Heart Failure. Mayo Clinic.
12. Heart Failure – Overview. U.S. National Library of Medicine.
14. Sodium: The Facts. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
15. Diet and Kidney Stones. National Kidney Foundation.
16. Heerspink, Hiddo J. Lambers, Gerjan Navis, and Eberhard Ritz. “Salt intake in kidney disease – a missed therapeutic opportunity?” Nephrology Dialysis Transplantation. 27.9 (2012): 3425-3442.
17. Salt: Shaking up the link with stomach cancer. World Cancer Research Fund International.
18, 20. Strand, Marija. “Salt and cancer.” Acta Med Croatia 64.2 (2010): 159-161.
21. Why is salt bad for our health? Consensus Action on Salt & Health.

Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.