Hypertension

17 March 2015

Salt may be bad for more than your blood pressure

According to a new study, damage to organs and tissues is present even with no sign of hypertension.

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Even if you don't develop high blood pressure from eating too much salt, you may still be damaging your blood vessels, heart, kidneys and brain, a new study warns.

Harmful effects

Researchers reviewed available evidence and found that high levels of salt consumption have harmful effects on a number of organs and tissues, even in people who are "salt-resistant", which means their salt intake does not affect their blood pressure.

High salt consumption levels can lead to reduced function of the endothelium, which is the inner lining of blood vessels. Endothelial cells are involved in a number of processes, including blood clotting and immune function. High salt levels can also increase artery stiffness, the researchers said.

Read: Types of hypertension

"High dietary sodium can also lead to left ventricular hypertrophy, or enlargement of the muscle tissue that makes up the wall of the heart's main pumping chamber," said study co-author David Edwards. He is an associate professor in kinesiology and applied physiology at the University of Delaware.

"As the walls of the chamber grow thicker, they become less compliant and eventually are unable to pump as forcefully as a healthy heart," he explained in a university news release.

Harms kidney function

High salt intake can also harm kidney function and may also affect the sympathetic nervous system, which triggers what is commonly known as the fight-or-flight response, according to the study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Study co-author William Farquhar is professor and chair of the department of kinesiology and applied physiology at the university.

Read: Regularly salting foods heightens death risk by 50%

He said, "Chronically elevated dietary sodium may 'sensitize' sympathetic neurons in the brain, causing a greater response to a variety of stimuli, including skeletal muscle contraction.

"Again, even if blood pressure isn't increased, chronically increased sympathetic outflow may have harmful effects on target organs," he said in the release.

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Image: Salt shaker from Shutterstock

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Dr Jacomien de Villiers qualified as a specialist physician at the University of Pretoria in 1995. She worked at various clinics at the Department of Internal Medicine, Steve Biko Hospital, these include General Internal Medicine, Hypertension, Diabetes and Cardiology. She has run a private practice since 2001, as well as a consultant post at the Endocrine Clinic of Steve Biko Hospital.

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