High blood pressure, or hypertension, is one of the major risk factors for Cardiovascular Diseases (CVDs), affecting about 128 crore adults worldwide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Unfortunately, an estimated 46% do not even know that they have the condition, and only 42% get diagnosed and treated.
While there is no specific cause of hypertension, unhealthy diets, particularly excess salt consumption, are the biggest contributors to the disease. We spoke to Dr Dixit Garg, Consultant Interventional-Cardiology, Manipal Hospital, Gurugram, to understand the link and to know how much salt can be consumed in a day.
How Salt Intake Raises Blood Pressure
“The link between salt consumption and high blood pressure is primarily due to the role of sodium, a component of salt, in regulating fluid balance and blood pressure in the body,” said Dr Garg.
High salt intake can cause water retention in the body, meaning when there's excess sodium in the bloodstream, the body works harder to maintain balance by holding onto water. This then contributes to higher blood volume, which puts extra pressure on the walls of the blood vessels, consequently leading to elevated blood pressure.
According to the WHO, an estimated 18.9 lakh deaths each year are attributed to too much sodium consumption. Therefore, the global health body advises and urges people to reduce their salt intake to minimise the risk of high blood pressure and other heart diseases.
Moderation Is Key
We now come to the most common question asked by people with hypertension: Should we stop eating salt completely?
Dr Gard answered, “While it's not necessary for people with high blood pressure to completely stop eating salt, they are generally advised to reduce their salt intake.”
He added, “The key is moderation. Sodium is an essential nutrient, and completely eliminating salt can have negative health effects.”
What Is The Recommended Daily Intake Of Salt?
While recommended salt intake may vary from person to person, the WHO recommends consuming less than 5 grams of salt per day for adults, which is approximately one teaspoon.
"This recommendation aims to help maintain healthy blood pressure levels and reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases," said Dr Garg.
As per the WHO, all salt should be iodized so that it facilitates healthy brain development in the foetus and young child and optimises people’s mental function in general.
To reduce your overall salt consumption for healthy blood pressure levels, here are a few tips to follow:
- Check food labels for sodium content and choose lower-salt options
- Opt for homemade meals so you can control your salt consumption
- Choose herbs and spices to flavour your food
- Limit processed foods
- Gradually reduce salt
- Avoid sauces and dressings, as they can increase your salt intake
- Eat more potassium-rich foods, such as bananas and oranges
Many factors can increase your risk of hypertension. However, excess salt intake can directly impact your blood sugar levels, raising your risk of CVDs. While you do not need to completely cut off salt from your diet, you must take measures to reduce the intake.