The American Heart Association (AHA) is still on the anti-salt bandwagon. Despite the lack of science behind the government’s decades-long “war on salt.” In fact, now they’re taking it even further, urging everyone to drastically cut back on salt. Even those who don’t currently have high blood pressure.
They claim cutting salt will help prevent hypertension and heart disease. However, recent studies show that, while salt may slightly raise blood pressure, it is not actually associated with heart or vascular diseases. But the AHA is still sticking to their story.
One thing I can agree on with the AHA is their recommendation to limit processed and packaged foods. But not for the same reason. The AHA believes that people get most of their salt from processed and packaged foods. Which may be true. But these “foods” aren’t just full of salt. They contain plenty of unhealthy constituents, too. So the AHA is very likely misidentifying salt as the culprit.
Besides, the dietary studies the AHA uses to assess salt intake are notoriously flawed. Most of them rely on asking study subjects to simply recall how often they eat certain foods. Which is hardly an accurate or objective way to measure food intake.
So, the fact is, the government doesn’t really know what people are eating.
The AHA does make it clear that our bodies need sodium to function. And that, under normal circumstances, any excess sodium in the body is filtered out by the kidneys and excreted in the urine.
What they fail to mention is that when you’re under stress, the neuroendocrine system sends “danger” signals to the kidneys to retain extra salt. The extra salt starts to build up in the blood and attract water. Which causes blood volume to swell. Which increases blood pressure.
This response makes perfect sense when we really are in danger. The problem is, most people aren’t in danger on a daily basis. But they are under stress. And over time, the elevated blood pressure brought on by this stress can boost the risk of heart disease and stroke. It can also lead to heart failure and kidney disease, starting a vicious cycle since both of those conditions make it harder for the kidneys to balance the body’s salt levels.
And keep in mind, retaining extra salt is just one of the ways the body can raise blood pressure when it needs to (or “thinks” it needs to). So even if you follow the AHA’s misguided advice to all but eliminate salt, your body will find other ways to raise blood pressure if you’re under chronic stress.
To say that eliminating salt from the diet will prevent heart disease is like saying removing seat belts from an automobile will cause an accident. It just doesn’t make sense. Once again, stress—not salt—is the real killer.