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:
"And so 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 added:
"Most of 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:
"The 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."