After Ms. Sanchez’s heart disease diagnosis her cardiologist recommended she limit the amount of salt in her diet. She wants to understand what salt does in her body and why it is so important to reduce her salt intake.
Salt has several functions in the body. In the cardiovascular system, salt helps maintain the volume of blood in your body, known as blood volume. Blood is composed of cells and plasma, a fluid made primarily of water but also containing proteins, glucose, cholesterol and charged particles or ions. Some important ions are sodium, potassium, calcium, and phosphate. Ions are necessary components of many bodily functions, so before they are discarded in your urine, your kidneys regulate the concentration of ions in your blood and the amount of water your body needs. The final product is excreted from your kidneys, and leaves your body through urination.
Water can move freely across cell membranes and blood vessels. However, for the body to function properly, water needs to remain more in some places than others. Salt is one of the chemicals that attract water, enabling water to stay in the blood, which helps maintain blood volume.
However, if you ingest too much salt, more water will remain in your blood vessels, increasing your blood volume. Increased blood volume makes it harder for your heart to pump blood around your body. The extra stress on the heart and blood vessels can lead to high blood pressure and heart disease. To keep your heart healthy, the amount of salt you ingest may be restricted to 1500 mg (1.5 g) per day.
Tips for Reducing Salt Intake
- Read nutrition labels to determine the amount of sodium
- Shop for and eat low sodium foods
- Prepare your own meals or ask for sodium content of meals
- Use salt-free seasonings and recipes
- Keep track of your salt intake