Heart disease and salt consumption

With February being American Heart Month, we want to focus on some ways you can help protect your health and your heart. But first, what is heart disease, and why is it so prevalent?

What is heart disease and why is it so common?

Heart disease can present itself in a number of ways. However, most of the time, when someone is referring to heart disease they are talking about a condition that involves narrowed or blocked blood vessels that lead to the heart. When these vessels are obstructed, then you can experience a heart attack, chest pain or stroke. The good news is, that most forms of heart disease can be prevented or treated by changing your lifestyle choices. 

The CDC presented some staggering numbers on how heart disease is affecting so many people:

  • About 610,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year–that’s 1 in every 4 deaths.
  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. 
  • Coronary heart disease is the most common type of heart disease, killing over 370,000 people annually.
  • Every year about 735,000 Americans have a heart attack. Of these, 525,000 are a first heart attack and 210,000 happen in people who have already had a heart attack.

Pass the salt?

While salt is an essential mineral that we need in our diet, too much of it can lead to heart disease. According the American Heart Association (AHA), when you have too much sodium in your bloodstream, it pulls water into your blood vessels, increasing the total amount of blood inside them. With more blood flowing through your blood vessels, your blood pressure increases. When you experience high blood pressure for a long period of time, you can actually stretch and injure the walls of the blood vessel. This can lead to an increase in plaque which blocks normal blood flow. The added pressure forces your heart to work harder to pump blood through the body – which begins to take a toll on your heart’s health. 

More than 70% of the salt you will eat comes in the form of package, prepared or restaurant foods. The AHA put together a list of the 6 most common foods that have an excessive amount of salt in them: 

  • Cold cuts and cured meats: About 6 thin slices of deli meat can contain as much as half of your daily recommended sodium amount. Alternatively, you can look for lower-sodium varieties.
  • Pizza: Depending on the toppings, one slice of pizza can contain more than half your daily recommended sodium. Next time, try limiting the cheese and add veggies instead of processed meats. 
  • Soup: Same as pizza and deli meats, canned soup can contain half or more of your daily recommended sodium. Look for lower-sodium versions here too. 
  • Breads and rolls: While breads in general doesn’t have as much salt as other processed foods, you may tend to eat it more frequently throughout the day. 
  • Chicken: 3 ounces of frozen and breaded nuggets (about the size of the palm of your hand) can add nearly 600 milligrams of sodium. Check the label to find out if your poultry has been plumped up with a salt solution – a 4 ounce serving shouldn’t have more than 100 milligrams of sodium.
  • Burritos and tacos: Just two teaspoons of packaged taco seasoning can have 411 mg of sodium. But you can make a salt-free version at home. Simply combine ½ teaspoon each of cumin, oregano, chili powder and garlic powder for a total of 42 mg of sodium.

Once you are aware of the hidden salts in the foods you are eating, it is actually easy to make adjustments, or look for lower sodium versions of your favorite foods and snacks. 

Firelands has heart

The Heart Center at Firelands Regional Medical Center offers a broad range of advanced cardiac testing and procedures from experienced heart doctors. Our highly skilled team of cardiologists, cardiac surgeons and healthcare professionals is trained in the most advanced technologies available for the prevention and treatment of heart disease. In addition, the Firelands Heart Center is accredited in heart failure, and is an American Heart Association Mission Lifeline Receiving center, as well as a certified chest pain center. To learn more visit: firelands.com/heart