Why is Salt Bad for Your Heart? The Reason Some Foods Cause High Blood Pressure and Others Don’t

Heart disease affects millions of people in the United States. High blood pressure is one of the major causes of heart problems — especially if you don’t take steps to prevent its negative effects.

Diets that reduce high blood pressure¬†aren’t hard to follow. But it isn’t always easy to figure out if what you’re eating is actually good for you.

Though you’re probably more likely to develop high blood pressure than you might realize, many people aren’t aware how much their daily activities affect this aspect of their health. A seemingly innocent and “healthier” frozen pizza might not taste salty. But it is. And that’s probably bad.

Here’s the deal with salt, and why some foods just aren’t worth the risk.

Why is too much salt bad for your body?

Pizza

Pizza | iStock.com/Miroha141

Salt, or sodium, is a necessary part of life. It’s actually not healthy to cut out too much salt from your diet. However, exceeding experts’ daily salt recommendations consistently for long periods of time can wear your body down.

Your blood is constantly flowing from one place in your body to another, toward and away from the heart. Your blood pressure is a measure of how much force your blood flows. The more force required to pump blood from place to place, the higher your blood pressure.

Eating too much salt causes your body to hold in more water, which puts more stress on your kidneys and other parts of your body. This raises blood pressure, which puts your heart health at risk.

Why is high blood pressure bad for your heart?

The higher your blood pressure, the harder your heart has to work to get blood and the oxygen it carries to different parts of your body.

Over time, high blood pressure can damage the walls of your arteries, the “tubes” your blood flows through. The most common type of damage occurs to the arteries that supply blood directly to the heart. This can lead to various types of heart disease, including heart attacks and heart failure.

Eating too much salt is not the only habit that can lead to high blood pressure. Other aspects of your diet and lifestyle, such as your weight and sugar intake, can also contribute to high blood pressure. But most of the salt in the average American diet comes from processed foods. Changing that could change rates of heart disease in the U.S. forever.

Foods that reduce high blood pressure

Salmon and vegetables

Salmon and vegetables | Elena_Danileiko/iStock/Getty Images

To keep your heart healthy, it’s important to eat foods that are good for your body overall. Many of the health problems associated with diet are due to a lack of adequate nutrition, such as low fiber intake, an absence of healthy fats, and not enough high-quality protein.

Some foods that might help reduce blood pressure include:

  • Milk and yogurt
  • Berries and some other fruits
  • Oatmeal
  • Spinach, kale, and other leafy greens
  • Salmon and other fatty fish
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Olive oil.

Foods to avoid with high blood pressure

To decrease your chances of developing high blood pressure, avoiding foods high in sodium is a good first step. But you might also want to consider cutting back on the amount of added sugars, calories, and saturated fat you consume in any given week.

Foods to consume more selectively might include:

  • Deli meat
  • Other processed meats, such as bacon
  • Canned soups and sauces
  • Frozen pizza
  • Many fast food and other restaurant meals
  • Most frozen meals
  • Foods high in added sugars (such as packaged desserts and other snack foods).

Taking steps to lower your blood pressure — such as changing how much salt you eat and consuming more heart-healthy foods — could save your life. Remember, most people with hypertension don’t have any symptoms before they start experiencing heart problems. Make changes before it’s too late.