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Salt and Your Health
Can Less Salt Lead to Longer Lives?

How much salt do you eat a day?
How much salt do you eat a day?

The amount of salt you eat daily can have a profound impact on how long you live. An analysis published in The Lancet Chronic Diseases Series concluded that if global salt intake was cut by just 15%, we could prevent 1 million deaths a year. The reason salt is so deadly is because of its effects. When we eat too much salt, it causes high blood pressure.

The direct connection between high levels of salt consumption and high blood pressure was clearly established in the Intersalt study published in 1988. There were 52 centers around the world where researchers tested and followed 10,079 men and women. Each center tested 200 people. Only four locations out of the 52 had salt intake low enough to meet the American Heart Association recommendation of 1,500 mg. of salt a day, or less.

In the places where everyone took in low sodium, not a single case of high blood pressure was found. Even more amazing, older subjects had virtually the same blood pressure as participants in their teens. Think about that for a minute. The four locations where people didn't take in more than 1,500 mg. of sodium a day, there wasn't a single case of high blood pressure.

It's believed high blood pressure is our bodies way of getting rid of excess sodium. You can see blood pressure spike after just one high-salt meal. Once sodium levels are stabilized, blood pressure drops back down. But that doesn't happen if we're constantly taking in too much salt. Over time, high blood pressure damages blood flow and is considered one of the primary causes of heart attacks and stroke.

In 2016, heart attacks were the number one leading cause of death in America and stroke was number five. Combined, heart attacks and strokes were responsible for the deaths of 774,165 people just in the United States in 2016.

We can thank processed food companies for all that salt.

Salt is a cheap way to make food taste good. Imagine a bowl of freshly popped popcorn. Now imagine how that popcorn tastes without salt. No salt and the flavor is bland; add salt and we can't seem to get enough. Multiply that difference in flavor across thousands of convenient processed food items.

Food companies are in the business to make a profit. If you take salt out of something, you need to spend more money on spices and other healthier options to keep your product tasting good. Replacing salt would cut into profits, and your health isn't a priority. The result is the average American consumes about 4,000 mg. of salt daily. That's nearly three times the daily limit that the Intersalt study found was healthy.

The problem now is, food companies are trying to make it look like salt isn't the problem. Over the last few years, articles have appeared that claim reducing the amount of salt we eat may be bad for you. Some even say if you take in low levels of sodium, it can reduce how long you live.

Here's how they're distorting the facts. If you look at the results from 48 out of those 52 testing centers in the Intersalt study, there doesn't seem to be a relationship between how much sodium people take in and the continual upward creep of blood pressure. The relationship doesn't become clear, until you add in the four testing centers where everybody was taking in low levels of salt.

But only looking at the 48 places where salt intake is high, is like comparing people who smoke two packs of cigarettes a day with people who smoke three packs a day. Cutting back from three packs to two won't make much of a difference to your health. But comparing two pack a day smokers to people who don't smoke at all, tells an entirely different story.

If you're taking in 4,000 mg. of sodium a day, dropping back to 3,000 a day isn't going to help much. Just like smokers won't benefit much if they go from three packs a day to two. You've got to drop it all the way down to 1,500 mg a day or less to see significant benefits.

99% of Americans take in more than the recommended maximum of 1,500 mg. of sodium a day. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 30% of Americans have high blood pressure. If you're interested in living a healthier and longer life, track how much salt you take in for just three days. If you're over 1,500 mg of salt daily, or if you have high blood pressure, explore ways to cut back for a longer and healthier life.

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