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The Dangers of a High Salt Diet

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Blood pressure

Around a third of people in the UK have high blood pressure but many are unaware of it. When left untreated, high blood pressure significantly increases the risk of a heart attack or stroke. Blood pressure measures the strength at which blood presses against the walls of your arteries as it is pumped around your body by your heart. If this pressure is too high it puts a strain on your arteries and your heart, which makes it more likely that you will suffer a heart attack, a stroke or kidney disease.

Measuring blood pressure

Blood pressure is measured in millimetres of mercury (written as mmHg) and it is recorded as two figures:

1. Systolic pressure: the pressure of the blood when your heart beats to pump blood out

2. Diastolic pressure: the pressure of the blood when your heart rests in between beats

For example, if your blood pressure is '140 over 90', or 140/90mmHg, it means you have a systolic pressure of 140mmHg and a diastolic pressure of 90mmHg.

You have high blood pressure if readings on separate occasions consistently show your blood pressure to be 140/90mmHg or higher. A blood pressure reading below 130/80mmHg is considered to be normal.

Salt and Blood Pressure

A global study across over 30 countries, published in the British Medical Journal, found conclusive evidence of a link between salt consumption and blood pressure. The researchers found that people with very low salt intakes had low blood pressure and people who consumed a high amount of salt had higher average blood pressure. The theory behind this is that as the level of salt in your blood stream rises, your body holds on to water, increasing the overall volume of blood. Just like in a balloon, an increased volume of liquid exerts increased pressure on your blood vessels.

Salt in the diet

Our diets have plenty of sodium chloride or table salt already, more than enough in fact. We would all be well advised to cut back on the amount of salt we eat. You may not have high blood pressure now, but in 5 or 10 years who knows.

And, a high salt diet increases your risk of stomach cancer and osteoporosis. Even if you don’t put salt on your food and are sparing in adding salt when you cook you can still exceed your daily-recommended dose.

What very few people realise is that up to 85% of the salt you consume comes from processed food. And the biggest source of that comes from factory-produced bread.

The reason it’s added to processed food is because it’s cheap and gives flavour. In fact, if you eat sausages, pies, pates, crisps and a whole host of manufactured snacks you’ll get an unhealthy dose of both salt and fat.

10713 Revised November 2012

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