Salt & Its Effect On Your Heart Rate
Watching your salt intake is one of the first things your doctor will recommend for lowering your blood pressure, but what effect does sodium reduction have on your heart rate? Recent research shows that not eating enough salt can increase your heart rate, leading to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.1
So how much salt do we really need?
Finding the ideal balance between eating too much salt and not getting enough salt is dependent on so many factors like health, genetics, environment, and lifestyle. Therefore, it’s hard to accurately predict how much each of us truly needs. For healthy adults, the Guidelines for Adequate Intake of sodium advises a daily intake between 1,500mg and 2,300 mg (about 1 teaspoon) per day.2
What makes salt a vital nutrient?
Everyone needs a certain amount of salt in their diet. As a chemical compound, salt or sodium chloride, is an essential electrolyte needed for the contraction and relaxation of your muscles, including your heart muscle. Sodium works in consort with potassium to keep your muscles functioning optimally. It also works to maintain a healthy balance of water and minerals in your cellular tissues.
Too much sodium will increase your heart rate
When you have too much sodium in your diet, usually from processed foods, you increase your chances of developing high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. A high level of sodium in your body results in water retention and increased blood volume. As a result, your blood pressure and heart rate will increase.
High sodium diets can also damage your blood vessels, leading to a hardening of the arteries or a disease called atherosclerosis. A high-salt diet is also guilty of leaching calcium from your bones, increasing your risk of developing osteoporosis and kidney disease.
Not enough salt is also bad for your heart
While the majority of Americans consume in excess of 4000mg of salt a day, older adults run the risk of not getting enough sodium in their diets. The term for this rare condition is hyponatremia and symptoms can include:
- Altered mental state or confusion
Exercise and excess sweating can also deplete the body of sodium, so extra care is needed during physical activity. Low sodium can negatively affect your electrolyte balance, causing muscle cramping and heart palpitations. Replenish your electrolyte balance with a sports drink when you’re working out and avoid drinking too much plain water, which will dilute essential salts.
Just a dash of salt will do
To help you reduce salt in your diet, try following the DASH diet. Designed by the National Institute of Health, the DASH diet teaches you how to replace salt-laden foods for healthier options. It’s a step-by-step guide to tracking your food and listening to the nutritional needs of your body without the fuss of complicated recipes and special ingredients. You work at your own pace and take it one day at a time until your body adjusts to the dietary changes. After about two weeks, eating less salt and consuming more potassium-rich, wholesome foods will be part of your daily routine.
Eating a healthy amount of sodium is the best way to approach heart health and reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Being aware of how much salt you’re consuming every day will help you stay on track and take control of your health. See your doctor if you’re in doubt about how much salt you need in your diet.
- Blog Contributor