Salt and cholesterol go hand in hand toward increasing your risk of heart disease. Although you need minimal amounts of sodium and cholesterol in your body, too much can lead to cardiovascular disease. The American Heart Association recommends that you consume no more than 1500 milligrams of sodium per day and no more than 300 milligrams of cholesterol per day.
Salt and Sodium
Salt is very high in sodium, as one teaspoon of salt contains 2300 milligrams of sodium, which is well over a day's worth of sodium. Too much sodium in the body attracts water, which leads to water retention and high blood pressure, which increases your risk for stroke. Even if your blood pressure remains normal, too much sodium exerts additional pressure on your organs -- including your heart – to keep your blood pressure normal.
Where Does Cholesterol Come From?
Your liver produces about 75 percent of the cholesterol in your body and the other 25 percent comes from what you eat, in the form of dietary cholesterol. Saturated fat and trans fats also raise cholesterol. Dietary cholesterol and saturated fat is found in egg yolks, dairy, shellfish, the fat in meat and poultry, and the fat in poultry skin. Trans fat is in foods that contain hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil such as french fries, donuts and baked goods. Too much cholesterol in the blood can lead to blockages in your arteries, which could result in a stroke or heart attack.
Salt and Cholesterol Connection
Too much sodium in your diet -- usually from eating too many processed foods -- can stretch your vessels and arteries, and cause small tears on the walls of the vessels and arteries where cholesterol can build up more easily than if there were no tears. Therefore, a high-sodium diet not only increases your risk for high blood pressure, it also increases the risk for cholesterol build up in your arteries. This build up leads to less space for your blood to flow, thereby putting pressure on your artery walls and blood vessels, increasing your blood pressure.
Two Little Changes -- One Big Benefit
Avoid trans fats and reduce your intake of sodium, dietary cholesterol and saturated fat. Reduce your salt intake or avoid adding salt to your food -- try herbs and other seasonings instead. Remove the fat and skin from meat and poultry and do not fry foods; instead, grill or bake them. Also, read food labels and look for reduced sodium, saturated and trans fats and cholesterol, and increase your intake of fruits and vegetables, as they have many beneficial nutrients for your heart health.
Is This an Emergency?
- American Heart Association: What Is High Blood Pressure?
- American Heart Association: About Cholesterol
- American Heart Association: Shaking the Salt Habit
- Ciruclation: American Heart Association Guide for Improving Cardiovascular Health at the Community Level, 2013 Update
- American Heart Association: Meat, Poultry and Fish
- American Heart Association: Trans Fat
- Pennsylvania State University: Hydrogenated Vegetable Oils and Trans Fatty Acids