Can too much salt in my diet cause serious health problems?
I am pretty young (in my 20s), but eat a lot of salty foods. My brother says that this will cause health issues. Can too much sodium be harmful to my health?
Your brother is generally right, in that eating salty foods is associated with certain important health problems. The main part of salt that is important medically is sodium. Sodium is an important chemical in the body which is involved in maintaining the proper balance of water and elements in the bloodstream and inside cells. However, when sodium is ingested in large quantities, it can have some effects on the body. In particular, it tends to raise blood pressure by causing fluid retention. For people who suffer from high blood pressure, eliminating salt from the diet can help control their blood pressure, thereby preventing complications like heart attacks and strokes. For people who are at risk of developing high blood pressure (due to family history, smoking, being overweight, and many other factors), reducing salt intake can be an important step in preventing the development of high blood pressure. The total amount of salt that is recommended for ingesting in the diet is somewhat less than 1 teaspoon of table salt per day. Most people in the United States consume far more that that, mostly through processed salty foods, and reducing this intake of salty foods is an important step towards a healthy lifestyle. Please talk to your primary care doctor for more information about salt intake and how to reduce it!