7 Ways Too Much Salt Affects Your Health

Jacqueline Ho Aug 22nd, 2014 (updated Oct 15th, 2014)
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If you’re trying to stick to a healthy diet, you probably have been able to avoid eating fatty foods and resist the dessert menu. But do you take into account the effects of salt consumption? Most experts recommend consuming no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day, or about the equivalent of one teaspoon of salt. If you think you're eating more than that--and you probably are--consider some of the potential consequences. 

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Water retention
Water retention

When we eat foods with high sodium content, our bodies respond by trying to dilute the salt and maintain a balance of electrolytes. In the process, we end up retaining extra water, which can cause puffiness and bloating. Processed foods, such as canned soup and frozen meals, may make you puff up. These foods, however, can help relieve bloating: citrus fruits, melons, pineapple, garlic and tea.

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Blood pressure
Blood pressure

Fluid retention caused by excessive salt consumption can lead to increased pressure on the blood vessel walls. The pressure causes the blood vessel walls to thicken and narrow and the heart begins to pump harder to move fluid around. The added stress on the heart and blood vessels results in higher blood pressure, which obviously is not good for your cardiovascular health.

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Kidney damage
Kidney damage

Increased blood pressure can put extra strain on the blood vessels leading to the kidneys, which work to filter the blood and remove unwanted fluid. This extra strain can, over time, impair the kidneys’ ability to filter out waste products, which could then start to build up in the body and cause kidney disease. If left untreated, kidney disease could lead to complete kidney failure.

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Stroke risk
Stroke risk

People who consume more than 4,000 mg of sodium a day are about 2.5 times more likely to have a stroke when compared with those who consume less than 1,500 mg a day, according to a recent study. The findings, presented at the 2014 American Stroke Association International Stroke Conference, held true regardless whether a person had high blood pressure.

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Headaches
Headaches

One of the side effects of high blood pressure—which can be caused by excessive sodium consumption—is headaches and dizziness. In particular, foods with monosodium glutamine, or MSG, have been found to trigger migraines, palpitations and other negative side effects. Headaches can also be caused by dehydration, which can occur if too much salt and not enough water is consumed.

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Cognitive decline
Cognitive decline

Older adults who consume excessive sodium amounts and don’t get enough exercise may have an increased risk of cognitive decline, according to a recent study. Many studies have found that sodium intake can affect heart health, but this research shows that it can impact brain health as well. The study demonstrates the importance of making healthy lifestyle choices as people age, researchers said.

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Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis

You probably know that calcium helps strengthen bones and keep them healthy. But eating salty foods can cause the kidneys to excrete much of this calcium, which may contribute to osteoporosis. Other studies have shown that women who are post-menopausal and consume a high-salt diet may be at particular risk for poor bone health.