The human body only needs 200 milligrams of sodium, or about 0.5 gram of salt, each day to function properly, yet the average American consumes a whopping 3,436 milligrams daily, according to the American Heart Association. Sure, salt tastes good, but overdoing it regularly can have disastrous effects on your body. The AHA recommends consuming no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium daily to keep your body healthy.
The balance of sodium, potassium and fluid in your body is a delicate process that requires proper filtration by your kidneys. When you have extra fluid in your blood, your kidneys use a process called osmosis to pull the excess water out. This water travels to your bladder, where it’s eventually removed from your body through your urine. This process keeps the amount of sodium and water in your blood in balance. When you eat a lot of salt, the amount of sodium in your blood increases. As a result, your kidneys cannot pull water out of your blood because it needs to stay in the blood to dilute the sodium.
Extra Pressure on Your Heart
The presence of excess water in your blood increases your blood volume. When your blood volume is increased, it puts extra pressure on your arteries and your heart. To cope with the strain, your arterial walls become stronger and thicker, which further reduces the space inside these blood vessels and increases your blood pressure even more.
High blood pressure is often referred to as “the silent killer” because it doesn’t usually cause any symptoms, but it does increase your risk of other serious problems. Over time, untreated high blood pressure can weaken and damage your arteries, heart and other organs, increasing your risk of coronary heart disease, heart failure, stroke and kidney failure. High blood pressure can also lead to vision loss, angina, memory loss and erectile dysfunction in men.
Eating too much salt doesn’t just have an effect on your blood pressure; it affects other areas of your body as well. Excess sodium causes you to retain water, which can lead to puffiness and bloating. You may also gain water weight. While this water weight may increase the number on the scale, it’s generally only temporary and will decrease once your sodium and fluid levels return to normal.
- American Heart Association: The Effects of Excess Sodium on Your Health and Appearance
- MedlinePlus: Sodium in Diet
- American Heart Association: Striking a Balance: Less Sodium (Salt), More Potassium
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Most Americans Consume Too Much Sodium
- Blood Pressure UK: Salt's Effects on Your Body
- The Wellness Corner: Salt, Sodium and High Blood Pressure
- American Heart Association: Why Blood Pressure Matters