5 Surprising Dangers of Too Much Salt

Table salt is our primary source of the mineral sodium, which our bodies use to help regulate blood volume and cellular fluids, transport nutrients, facilitate nerve impulses and muscle contractions, and maintain a normal acid-base balance. To keep all of these functions running smoothly, adults need no more than 1,500 mg, sodium, or less than a teaspoon of salt, daily. Yet diet surveys show that most Americans consume at least two or three times that amount every day.  Over time, all that extra sodium can have these serious effects on your health:

Hypertension.  Salt causes water to be retained in your blood vessels, putting extra pressure on blood vessel walls and causing your heart to have to work harder to pump blood throughout your body. Salt may also interfere with the action of small blood vessels that dilate and contract in order to maintain normal blood pressure. The result for some people who are particularly sensitive to salt is high blood pressure, which can lead to heart disease, kidney disease or stroke.

Osteoporosis.  Salt can contribute to the development of this bone-thinning disease because a high sodium diet will increase the amount of calcium you lose in urine that would normally be reabsorbed into your bones.

Kidney stones.  Excess salt can contribute to the formation of kidney stones because when excess salt is lost in urine, calcium goes with it, and the more calcium that passes through your urinary tract, the higher your risk of developing calcium stones.

Mineral imbalance. If you have too much sodium in your diet you need more potassium to maintain a crucial electrolyte balance in your body. The solution is to cut back on sodium to maintain the healthy balance is essential for proper heart and muscle function.

Water retention.
  Salt does not cause edema, which is a condition wherein fluids collect and pool up under the skin. But since salt attracts fluids and causes water retention within body tissues, anyone with a medical condition such as heart, liver or kidney disease, or any disorder that affects their body's ability to excrete sodium, must cut back on salt in the diet.

In addition to cutting back on table salt and the amount of salt you use in cooking, you can cut back on sodium by cutting back your use of canned broths, cold cuts and other cured meats such as ham and corned beef, pickles and olives, canned vegetables and soups, snack foods like potato chips, pretzels and salted peanuts, sauerkraut, condiments such as soy sauce and bottled salad dressings and most foods sold in fast food restaurants.


University of Illinois: McKinley Health Center: Reducing the Sodium in Your Diet

Colorado State University Extension: Sodium in the Diet

Washington University, St. Louis: Sodium Content of Common Foods

Rutgers University Health Services: Sodium

University of Maryland Medical Center: Potassium (imbalance caused by excess sodium)