One of the most common problems humanity has is high blood pressure or hypertension. Hypertension leads to strokes as well as other problems such as heart attacks. A major cause of these problems is salt or sodium.
I remember the first time I was aware of salt in my life. My family was visiting my grandparents and we were eating dinner. I salted my food without tasting it. While my brother and sister continued eating, all of the adults at the table froze. My mom asked, “Gary, don’t you want to taste your food before adding more salt?” The fact of the matter was I didn’t need to taste the food; it never had enough salt for me. They would truly have died had they known I sipped pickle brine.
I recently did an article about “Supertasters.” These are people who because of their unique taste bud makeup need more salt than the average person. I didn’t taste salt when applied in amounts satisfactory for the average person.
There are other reasons that salt (sodium) becomes a problem for us. Again in my case I have manic depression. While there is disagreement about whether or not salt is a mood elevator if I am any example it is. The more salt I get the happier I am and that is true of many people. If they eat salt they are happy. Note the amount of salty snacks such as popcorn, potato chips, French fries and corn curls ingested on a daily basis.
Interestingly 90 percent of the sodium absorbed in our country is not added after the fact but is a part of food as it comes packaged to us. Packaged lunch meats and canned soups are terribly high in sodium. If a person is willing to physically workout they can get rid of this excess salt but few of us are.
Increasing salt increases blood pressure. Blood pressure is simply the rare the blood moves through the veins and arteries. The harder it surges the more damage can be done to the blood vessels causing strokes and heart attacks.
There are two blood pressure numbers. The top number is when the heart pushes blood against the blood vessels. This is called the systolic pressure. When the heart relaxes so does the pressure against the blood vessels termed the diastolic pressure. The systolic pressure is typically written as the higher number such as 120/70. The borderline number historically has been 140/90 although these days a pressure of 120/80 is more preferable.
Many countries have begun programs to reduce the amount of sodium added to processed foods with much success.
It has been shown that a slow reduction in saltiness of food has no impact on people as far as flavor.
As we live longer and longer it is going to be up to us to do more and more to take care of our own health. It appears we are going to find that prevention is better than treatment.
Personal Experience and Knowledge
“The Salty Stuff,” Newsletter, NIH News in Health, March 2010