Salt has always been a source of concern for anyone battle heart disease, particularly high cholesterol. Physicians and specialists have told their patients for years how crucial a salt-free diet, or at least low-salt diet, is to maintain a healthy heart. But a recent study, though not refuting any advice to avoid salt, states that “we should be more concerned about added sugars in our diet.”
According to WebMD, published in the BMJ’s online journal Open Heart, the analysis of published evidence says added sugars in processed foods are likely to have a greater role in high blood pressure and heart disease and stroke, than added salt.
In a statement the campaign group, Action on Sugar, says the public health risk posed by sugar has been underestimated: “We know that sugar does not provide any nutrients and there is growing evidence it is an independent risk factor for many diseases.”
Cardiovascular Disease and Salt
When we talk about a heart healthy diet and the specific, threatening foods that you need to avoid to keep your heart healthy, we’re usually speaking of processed foods, particularly fast foods. Processed foods are well known for containing a great amount of salt, particularly detrimental to your heart.
Let’s dive into the historical assault on salt as related to heart disease. Salt reduces the ability of your kidneys to remove water. The result is higher blood pressure due to the extra fluid and extra strain on the delicate blood vessels leading to the kidneys. Over time your kidneys cannot filter out unwanted toxic waste within the body. All of this places an extreme amount of pressure on the entire body and natural functions of the body.
When it comes to the arteries, the added blood pressure causes the tiny muscles in the artery walls to become thicker and stronger, which decreases the space inside the arteries where blood should flow easily. As you can imagine, everything from here out is bad news.
Cardiovascular Disease and Sugar
Sugar has A LOT of money behind it – far more than salt does. What I mean by that is that sugar companies have big money, and big influence, and big lobbyists, and typically get what they want. But according to authors of the sugar study, “worldwide, sugar sweetened beverage consumption has been implicated in 180,000 deaths a year.”
While we focus on salt in processed foods, the true culprit might in fact be sugar in processed foods. Authors also stress that ‘healthy’ sugar found in fruits and vegetables are not harmful to health, “Just as most dietary sodium does not come from the salt shaker, most dietary sugar does not come from the sugar bowl; reducing consumption of added sugars by limiting processed foods containing it, made by corporations, would be a good place to start.”
The moral of this study and this story is to take care of your heart and listen to your body. You shouldn’t be eating processed foods if you have a cardiovascular condition. You shouldn’t be using artificial sweeteners if you have a cardiovascular condition. What you should be doing is laughing with family and friends this holiday season, talking long walks in this beautiful Arizona weather, and doing your best to maintain a heart healthy diet.
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