Excess Salt, Processed Foods and Heart Disease: Make the Connections

A new study of middle-aged American men has found that eating foods laced with too much salt may be as risky as smoking cigarettes, at least in terms of a risk factor for heart attacks called coronary flow reserve.

Science News reports that the study examined CFR and salt intake among 143 pairs of male twins in their 50s or older. CFR declined by about 10 percent for each additional 1,000 milligrams of sodium that a man consumed per day compared with his brother.

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The results imply that adults who routinely consume too much sodium might have trouble raising sufficient blood flow in the heart — which could lead to angina or disturbances of heart function, observes Bruce Van Vliet of Memorial University of Newfoundland in St. John’s, Canada

Average sodium intake by Americans age 2 and older is about 3,400 milligrams per day. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend limiting sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams a day. The recommendation is 1,500 milligrams per day for people aged 51 and older, and anyone with high blood pressure, diabetes, and chronic kidney disease, and African Americans.

In a recent report, the Centers for Desease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that the most common sources of salt are breads and rolls, luncheon meat such as deli ham or turkey, pizza, poultry, soups, cheeseburgers and other sandwiches, cheese, pasta dishes, meat dishes such as meat loaf, and snack foods such as potato chips, pretzels and popcorn.

The CDC, as well as the authors of the study above recommend that Americans work hard at diminishing their sodium intake.

Since about 80 percent of sodium in the American diet comes from the processed foods that we eat, here’s one more reason to choose more whole plant based foods in your diet.

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