Table salt is a common food seasoning that contains the mineral sodium. If you habitually consume too much sodium, you can elevate your blood pressure and significantly increase your risks for a number of serious or potentially fatal health conditions. However, excessive salt intake is not related to pain in your joints or numbness.
Common table salt, also known as sodium chloride, is a compound substance containing 40 percent sodium and 60 percent chloride. You need sodium to support basic body functions, including maintenance of your internal fluid balance, nerve signal transmission and proper relaxation and contraction of your muscles. Adults have a daily minimum sodium requirement of roughly 1,500 mg, and most adults have a recommended maximum daily intake of 2,300 mg. However, the average U.S. adult consumes about 3,400 mg of sodium per day, according to MayoClinic.com.
Blood Levels of Sodium
Under normal circumstances, blood levels of sodium in adults range from 136 mEq/L to 145 mEq/L. If you consume too little sodium, your body will try to raise your levels by reducing the amount of the mineral you lose in your urine. If you consume too much sodium, your body will try to lower your levels by increasing its presence in your urine. However, you can overwhelm your body's excretion abilities and trigger a sodium buildup in your bloodstream if you habitually eat excessive amounts of the mineral, become dehydrated, use certain medications or have a disease that alters your normal hormone balance.
When sodium accumulates in your bloodstream, it increases the volume of your blood by attracting and retaining water. In turn, an increase in your blood volume makes your blood harder to pump through your circulatory system. When your blood becomes harder to pump, the workload on your heart increases and pressure placed upon your artery walls rises. Over time, these changes in blood pressure and your heart's workload can trigger the onset of serious or fatal ailments that include heart disease, congestive heart failure, kidney disease and stroke.
If your blood sodium levels rise above 145 mEq/L, you can develop a high-sodium disorder called hypernatremia. Potential signs or symptoms of this disorder include vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness when you change body positions, severe sweating, fever, irritability, lethargy, increased thirst, shortness of breath, uncontrolled body movement, rapid heartbeat, changes in your normal mental status and bleeding in your brain. However, if you have a mild case of hypernatremia, you may not have any noticeable signs or symptoms at all. Typically, treatment for hypernatremia includes treatment of its underlying cause, as well as medical correction of the current sodium imbalance. Consult your doctor for more information on the potential short- and long-term effects of excessive salt consumption.
Is This an Emergency?
- Colorado State University Extension: Salt in the Diet; Anderson, Young, et al.
- MayoClinic.com: Sodium; How to Tame Your Salt Habit Now (Page 1); March 31, 2011
- ChemoCare.com: Hypernatremia (High Sodium)
- University of Washington: Hypernatremia (Page 2); Jennifer Best, M.D.
- American Heart Association: Sodium (Salt or Sodium Chloride)