Why do I crave Salty Food?
Because it tastes so good! And I am one such person – I love salt in my food. As a young student I worked in a restaurant, it was small so I was a busboy and a dishwasher and I even did some prepping. Anyway the chef’s injunction has always stuck in my mind, “How much salt should I add? The quantity you would normally use, plus 100%” – advice I might add from a salt-eating freak! This he said was very important because salt adds flavor, and flavor of the food was a critically important factor to a restaurant’s success. That may be true in a sense, but what really abominable advice!
Is it bad for me? Yes, in the amounts I, and many others it seems, tend to use. There is convincing evidence that a high salt intake will increase your blood pressure which could lead to a heart attack or stroke. My statistics are from the US, except for these startling facts from the UK (Blood Pressure UK): In the UK, hypertension is the cause of 62% of all strokes and 49% of heart-attacks.
I have been using the word salt, but it is the amount of sodium that is important. Table salt is actually about 40% sodium and 60% chloride. To quantify this – one teaspoon of salt would actually hold about 2,300 mg of sodium. The FDA has posed the question: what if Americans made a momentous decision and decided to lower their total sodium consumption to under 1,500 mg per day how would this change things? If you are like me, I made a quick calculation and found that 1,500 mg is 65% of a teaspoon – a tiny amount!
We already know from the FDA that about 70% of the sodium we consume is obtained from food (not from the fresh market section) bought in supermarkets, butchers, take-a-ways and restaurants. The balance of the sodium comes from fruit and vegetables (11%) where it occurs naturally, or is added when being cooked or at the table. I once even developed a habit of sitting down – wherever, not tasting my food first but reaching for the salt-shaker and giving my plate a heavy-handed dash or two.
What is too much Salt?
So to return to the FDA’s question: bearing in mind that the average American consumes 3,440mg of sodium per day (fact sheet, American Heart Association), what if Americans lowered their salt intake to less than 1,500 mg/day what would be the outcome? The saving of many, many lives. Individual blood pressure could drop by about 25% and this alone would reduce deaths caused by coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease and rheumatic heart disease in the country by between 500, 000 to 1.2 million over the following ten years. Alas, 3,440 to 1,500 would be a ‘bridge too far’ for most, so my view is tempered by a big dose of cynicism.
And too Little?
We have looked at salt in excess, but what about too little salt? Doctors call it Hyponatremia and it too can cause death. So what could cause that to occur:
- Prolonged diarrhea and heavy vomiting.
- Excessive use of diuretidics and other medications including antidepressants and pain pills.
- Kidney and liver disease and a number of other medical conditions.
For our purposes, I would think that points 1 and 2 above warrant our attention. Plus the situation that could occur when someone actually failed to ingest enough salt. I recall as a young man working aboard a ship that spent many months in India during the summer of 1957.
The ship was the City of New York of the Ellerman Line and I recall how insistent the doctor was that we whiteys all took our salt tablets every day – all the crew, other than the officers, in those far-off days were Indian.
. In modern times it would be most atypical for a doctor to be found aboard a vessel of that size. He was of the opinion that not taking enough salt and sweating excessively caused by the oppressive heat was extremely dangerous. And he is not the only one. There are a number of studies that refute the medical establishment’s view that ordinary people should all reduce their salt intake to less than 1,500 mg per day. Please read the following article by Chris Kresser on the dangers of salt restriction.
Your Mentor, Maximus
I am Maximus. I am no doctor but I do have a degree in science and I am a cosmologist – although that hardly counts in this field. My interest in sodium stems from my own hypertension and as someone >80 years, a fear that should I not be careful, I could very well suffer a stroke. Death is no real worry but surviving a stroke with a disability caused by brain damage very definitely is – a truly frightful situation for anyone. Please read the following Q&As;, they are chock-full of very sound advice.
Q&As: Sodium and Blood-Pressure
- I now know that sodium, in excess is bad for me, tell me more. As a mineral it is terribly important to life – it is essential. It assists in sending nerve impulses and has great importance in the proper functioning of your muscles. It helps regulate fluids through the operation of the kidneys.
- Earlier you spoke about coronary heart disease, how is the heart involved? When there is more salt in your bloodstream it pulls more water into the arteries and veins. This then increases the amount of blood which increased the blood pressure. Over a period this increase of blood pressure and extra work, obviously places a burden on the heart and weakens it.
- What is blood pressure? Just think of your heart as a muscle but in reality a very efficient little pump. It’s job is to pump blood throughout the tissues and organs in your body. The route is out of the left side of the heart into the arteries – this is fresh blood that is full of oxygen and nutrients. Obviously, there must be pressure in the arteries from the pump for the blood to move and it is this pressure that is measured.
- Tell me more about blood pressure. It places a central part in the development of heart disease which incidentally is the number one cause of death worldwide. In the US, ninety percent of all Americans can expect to develop high blood pressure (HBP), or more commonly known as hypertension, in their lifetimes. These are huge figures especially when one compares and contrasts them with the tiny amount of salt that could substantially change a person’s course through life.
- What is a normal blood pressure in an adult? Normal blood pressure is regarded as a reading that is below 120/80. Prehypertension is defined as a systolic reading between 120 and 129 and a diastolic reading under 80. Hypertension is defined as blood pressure of 130/80 and up. Without my daily pills I too would suffer hypertension.
- Does hypertension cause strokes? It does but fortunately this is an area of medical science where great advances have been shown – over the past 50 years, death by stroke in the US has declined progressively. Not only death, but the humiliating damage caused by strokes is an abiding fear felt by all older people. If you are interested, please read the chapter below on stroke and hypertension – it refers to some recent research carried out in the area.
- Is it possible, if we did all the right things, to heal hypertension? Not if you are like 90% of the public who have ‘essential hypertension’ then there is no cure. If you have been diagnosed with ‘secondary hypertension’ – ie the hypertension caused by something else, then it is possible to be cured.
- If most Americans lowered their sodium consumption to less than 1,500 mg per day, what’s the potential health impact? This has been answered once above but it bears being repeated. A study was undertaken using exactly that criterion. It estimated that the national average blood pressure would decrease by 25.6% and a whopping $26.2 billion of health care would be saved. Another study found that cardio-vascular disease deaths would possibly be reduced by more that a million in a decade. I should add as a matter of fairness that there exists a strong and educated minority of researchers who believe that the reduction desired by the establishment is excessive.
- I expect that age would play a part in HBP are there other factors? That is true, other factors are weight: if you are over-weight this will likely increase you BP. Race and ethnicity are also important. More on this later. Gender too is important – men are more vulnerable, especially the under-50s. Finally, some medical conditions like diabetes and kidney disease will obviously play a big role.
- What factors contribute to hypertension? Some of these questions have been covered in the previous question. Other factors are: old age; smoking of course; stress; not exercising enough – even a regular walk can be very helpful; regularly drinking > two units per day seems to raise the blood pressure; a family history of raised BP.
- I am in my twenties and do not have a BP problem but I love bacon and salty chips, should I lower my salt intake? I would if I were you, limiting your intake of sodium is always a good idea and it would delay the increase in blood pressure that comes with age. Of course, this would also have a knock-on effect because it would reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke, perhaps cancer of the stomach and sometimes even headaches. I would also have my blood pressure checked by a physician – just in case.
- I am African American and we are definitely poorer than many of our neighbors. I have noticed a lot of hypertension just among my own family – why? That is true. A family history of hypertension would be significant as mentioned above, but additionally, high blood pressure is undoubtedly higher among African Americans than among the so-called Caucasian and Hispanic Americans. It also comes a lot earlier and with more malevolence. Scientists are loath to make race the reason and suggest rather that the cause is more likely an environmental factor. From my own experience it is undeniable that when you are poor, and I live in Africa – the diet is very often awful and very often composed of what the medical profession like to refer as the ‘Salty Six’. Everyone, whatever their situation in life, should endeavor to try to eat more vegetables and less processed food. Please read the next question on the ‘Salty Six’.
- What do you mean when you talk of the ‘Salty Six’? These are foods that commonly purchased by the average American who enjoys their saltiness. They are filling and flavorful but hardly contribute to a balanced diet. Additionally, they are often cheap and processed and if you are poor, that’s the way to go!
- The Salty Six are: 1. Processed Meats. These are very high in sodium and are the primary source of sodium in the American diet. 2. Pizza and Pasta sauces. 3. Bread – often very salty and consumed by the ton. 4. Soup. 5. Salt Seasonings – imagine the barbecue master in his back yard, applying his seasonings with a generous flick of the wrist! 6. Chicken. Not surprisingly given the public’s general love of sodium, many people are unaware that raw chicken, in the US and many other countries, is injected with a salt solution when being prepared by the producers. This can cause a dramatic increase in the sodium level of each serving – greater than 400 mg in some cases. And that’s before the chef gets hold of it – remember his dreadful advice?
- I have heard hypertension referred to as ‘the silent killer’, why? That is because it can be present but show no sign of its presence. Untreated hypertension can lead to many health issues – chief probably being coronary heart disease. As I have said earlier it is the No. 1 killer worldwide.
Stroke and Hypertension
Here follows information gleaned from the study by DT Lackland et al, published in 2018. (Originally published 21 Feb 2018 https://doi.org/10.1161/STROKEAHA.117.019379Stroke. 2018;49:772–77), and referred to in the above Q&A.
The reduction in strokes in the US, mentioned above, have been ascribed to better application of HBP treatment in the country. If one studies the distribution charts of BP levels in the US population of any age, an immediate reduction can be seen. There consequently exists a powerful link between stroke risk and BP control. It is no wonder that it is so important for clinicians to apply this in their practices.
The Benefits of CBD Oil on Anxiety
What I believe the key take-away from the Q&A above is that one should really use common-sense – most ordinary people know almost, without any coaching, what one should do to stay healthy. We have dealt with blood pressure and the heart, but what then about our mental circumstances? My one piece of advice. In a general sense, is to beware of anxiety – the biggest threat of all in my eyes. It is a colossal mental disorder in the US and raises its mean little head in so much of our lives. Additionally, anxiety plays a big role in hypertension. This is where I can help. Please click on this link, ‘Your CBD Mentor, What is the Best CBD Oil for Anxiety’? CBD is an extraordinary substance and one of its greatest rewards is, its capacity to sooth. Please read more about this magical weed.
The above Q&A is pretty conclusive I would think and my recommendation, if you are unsure, would at the very bare minimum to get your blood pressure taken – ideally at your doctor’s rooms. Two readings are taken: one during the pumping cycle called the systole and the second when the heart eases to the non-pumping cycle and refills with blood, called the diastole – for example 120/80 mm Hg. The numbers are variable and depend on a number of things: the time of day, your emotions, your age and sex, the amount of liquids in your body, how much rest you have had etc. Remember these are usually just temporary, daily changes and your BP will return to your personal approximate base level. Once you know your BP – just follow what you have learnt from the Q&A, and, most importantly what your doctor advises.
One more piece of advice and one that I adhere to: if possible, eat foods that are high in potassium. It is an electrolyte – ie a mineral that maintains our bodies and keeps us healthy. So try to eat a lot of fruit and vegetables like bananas, citrus fruits, melons and green leaf vegetables – all are high in potassium and will help the kidneys remove the extra salt in your body.
Please note that the statements above, especially with reference to CBD, have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease or condition. Users should not disregard, or delay in obtaining, medical advice for any medical condition they may have, and should seek the assistance of their health care professionals for any such conditions.