Sodium and cholesterol are often mentioned together as things to cut back on and monitor for a healthy diet. Sodium, including sodium chloride or table salt, is used in food production as a preservative, to stabilize, bond ingredients, enhance color, as well as for flavoring. As a result, people consume much more sodium than they may realize. This can be concerning to individuals with high cholesterol, who are under the misconception that sodium levels directly effect cholesterol.
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Sodium and Its Health Effects
Sodium is a natural element, NA on the periodic table. It is a soft, white alkali metal. Sodium is a necessary element for health because, as explained on the website ChemiCool, "sodium ions facilitate transmission of electrical signals in the nervous system and regulate the water balance between body cells and body fluids." The American Heart Association explains that though sodium is an essential nutrient, very little is actually required. They recommend trying to stay under 1,500 milligrams of sodium a day, which is difficult when so much of the food and beverages available contain large amounts of sodium. Too much sodium in the diet is linked to high blood pressure, and increased risk of heart attack and stroke.
Cholesterol and its Health Effects
There are two types of cholesterol in the body, the good type, HDL, and the bad type, LDL. They are thought of in terms of good and bad based on their health effects. The balance of the two is important because HDL cholesterol actually works to help limit the artery build up of LDL cholesterol. High levels of LDL cholesterol can clog arteries leading to heart attack and stroke. Cholesterol levels are determined by both genetics and diet, so where a person can be genetically at risk of high cholesterol, they can help lower it through their dietary decisions.
Does Sodium Effect Cholesterol
Sodium does not affect cholesterol levels. In September 2003, at the American Heart Associations Annual High Blood Pressure Research Conference, lead author Lawrence J. Appel, M.D., professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, presented the results from the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH)-Sodium Trial. According to the study, there was no change in total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, or triglycerides. The DASH diet is a low sodium diet typically recommended by doctors to people suffering hypertension.
Sodium and Cholesterol, What is the Health Link?
The health link between sodium and cholesterol lies in the risk factors both share if over-consumed. A high sodium diet, as well as high cholesterol, are linked to an increased risk of heart attack or stroke. Therefore, despite the fact sodium does not increase cholesterol levels, doctors may advise patients to limit it to lower heart attack and stroke risk.