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Each year, millions become
sick or die because of high blood pressure and its consequences. But
hypertension is a condition that can be controlled with some simple measures -
among them, limiting your intake of sodium.
Stroke is a devastating
event - it occurs when a blood vessel in the brain becomes blocked, or starts
to bleed uncontrollably. Both conditions can be caused by high blood pressure.
And one common way to elevate your blood pressure is to eat a meal that's too
salty, says Kevin Willis, head of the Canadian Stroke Network. Willis says the
salt moves into the bloodstream and essentially makes your blood too salty. He said:
then your body has to try to dilute the salt in your blood by bringing more
fluid into your blood, in order to dilute the salt. And what happens then is
because the blood volume increases, and you've got, you know, the same tubing
as it were, and that increases the pressure in your blood vessels."
The body eventually removes
the excess salt and regains equilibrium. But over time, that process damages
the blood vessels and that can lead to high blood pressure.
Salt - a chemical combination of sodium and chloride - has long been used to
keep food from going bad, and sodium is still an important preservative in the
food industry. In an article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal,
Willis calls upon governments to regulate the amount of sodium that can be
added into food during processing. He
your intake of sodium comes not from the salt that you add with the salt shaker
at the table or in preparing foods but it's actually already added to the foods
as part of the food processing process. So the sodium in processed food
constitutes about 70 percent of your total sodium intake."
Mr. Willis estimates that if
people could reduce the amount of sodium they eat every day by about a third,
the number of strokes could be reduced by as much as 20 percent. He said:
recommended [intake] amount for adults is 1500 mg of sodium per day. It's less
than that if you're a child or young person, and it's also less than that if
you are older. So, one level teaspoon of salt... that's about 6 g of salt that
contains about 2300 mg. So 1500 mg is, which really isn't very much."