Your body only needs a little sodium each day to balance your fluid levels and regulate muscle and nerve functions. When you get heavy handed with the salt shaker or eat lots of sodium-rich foods, the mineral starts to cause problems in your body. Cutting back on your sodium intake drastically reduces your chances of having these health issues. You can have up to 2,300 milligrams of sodium daily if you're pretty healthy or as much as 1,500 milligrams a day if you have a history of cardiovascular or kidney problems.
When you have a salty meal or snack, sodium saturates the fluid surrounding cells. To compensate, your cells try to pull fluid back in and your body triggers the thirst mechanism. This is why you probably need a big drink after you have popcorn at the movies. You may chug some water to quench your thirst, but by the time all that fluid and sodium balances out, you might just feel overly full and bloated for a time until your body normalizes the balance.
2. High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is probably the most well-known problem associated with a high sodium intake. Too much sodium in your diet throws off your body’s natural fluid balance and your heart has to pump harder to move blood. The extra force puts a huge strain on the walls of your arteries, upping your blood pressure. Over time, high blood pressure permanently damages your arteries and increases your risk of developing heart disease.
As your blood pressure spikes with a sodium-rich diet, pieces of plaque can start to tear off the inside of arterial walls as blood rushes through. These particles cause clots and can easily get stuck in your arteries, dramatically reducing or stopping blood flow. Depending on the location of the clot, it can cut off blood circulation -- and therefore the oxygen supply -- to your heart or brain. Ultimately, you could suffer a heart attack or stroke.
4. Kidney Stones
Excessive amounts of dietary sodium can increase your risk of having kidney stones. Most kidney stones are made up of calcium and high levels of sodium in your body cause your system to excrete calcium through your urinary system. The calcium particles clump together, resulting in stones. Consuming around 4,900 milligrams of sodium per day -- more than double the daily allowance -- increases the risk of kidney stones by as much as 30 percent in women, the Linus Pauling Institute reports.
5. Gastrointestinal Upset
As long as your kidneys are functioning normally and you drink plenty of water, your system should be able to get rid of extra sodium if you happen to have a salty meal. But you may feel sick in the meantime. Large intakes of sodium all at once can give you a severe belly ache, make you throw up or even cause diarrhea as your system works to restore a normal fluid balance. It’s important to stay hydrated if you do start vomiting or have diarrhea. Losing lots of fluids can make you dizzy or even cause fainting.
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