According to the CDC, you need between 180 mg and 500 mg of sodium each day to keep your body working properly. Most Americans consume an average of almost 3,500 mg a day, which is above not only your body's need, but also the levels of Adequate Intake and Upper Limit set forth by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Such high levels of sodium intake are known to raise blood pressure, increasing your risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke. With so much focus being placed on sodium, many people are left wondering if swimming in saltwater is safe.
Besides too much sodium in the diet, other factors can increase your risk of high blood pressure. Age, gender and race are some of the more common. If you are male or if you are black, you are far more likely to develop high blood pressure as you get older. The risks also increase as a result of excess weight, lack of exercise and smoking tobacco. Even stress and too little potassium or vitamin D can lead to high blood pressure is some people. Neither the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute nor the Mayo Clinic make mention of swimming in saltwater increasing the risk of high blood pressure.
Swimming, on the other hand, may help to reduce blood pressure as well as the long-term problems associated with this condition. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute suggests getting at least 30 minutes of moderately intense physical activity most days of the week to improve blood pressure. Swimming is often characterized as a more intense form of exercise, so taking a swim, be it in chlorinated water or saltwater, may be advisable for some people.
The aerobic activity associated with swimming is also known to help manage weight. If you're able to lose just 5 lbs of excess weight, you can often see an improvement in your blood pressure, explains the Mayo Clinic. Losing weight when you're of "normal" weight isn't as beneficial. Other options must be used to improve your condition, such as eating a healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy, limiting your sodium to no more than 1,500 mg a day or taking medications to treat high blood pressure.
Before starting any exercise program, including swimming, consult with your doctor. Medical professionals can recommend the most appropriate forms of exercise to improve your blood pressure. Swimming in saltwater may not be the best option for you. Instead, your doctor may advise walking, biking or another less intense aerobic activity to improve blood pressure.
If left untreated, high blood pressure can take a toll on the health of your arteries. This can lead to a narrowing or hardening of the blood vessels as well as heart disease, heart failure, heart attack and stroke, cautions the American Academy of Family Physicians. People with high blood pressure are also more likely to develop an aneurysm, which is a bulge in the arterial wall that can rupture and lead to life-threatening health complications.