My wife is obsessed with salt, so much so that she bought herself an electric salt mill so she could salt her food at a faster pace. She salts soups, pasta dishes, hamburgers, even salads. I bug her all the time to cut down, but she says she has low blood pressure and can eat as much salt as she wants. Is this true? Is high blood pressure the only thing you have to worry about with a high sodium diet, or am I right to keep bugging her to cut down?
—Concerned about my salty wife
In addition to sugar, salt is something many people crave. Who can blame them? Foods are prepared with so much sodium that our taste buds have grown accustomed to strong salty flavors. I can understand, and even relate to, your wife's salt obsession. You're right to be worried about blood pressure, but to find out if that's the only health concern associated with a diet high in sodium,
One good thing you can focus on is that sodium is actually essential to our bodies, but in small amounts. We need salt in order to maintain the correct balance of fluids in our bodies, to help transmit nerve impulses, and to help with the contraction and relaxation of our muscles. But it sounds like your wife is meeting her daily quota and then some.
According to the Mayo Clinic, our kidneys regulate the amount of sodium kept in our bodies. When levels are too high, it gets passed through our urine. But "if your kidneys can't eliminate enough sodium, the sodium starts to accumulate in your blood," so we retain fluid, which increases blood volume. This is bad news because it makes your heart have to work harder to move all that extra blood through your blood vessels, which in turn increases pressure in your arteries and raises your blood pressure. And we know what that means — an increased risk for heart attacks and stroke. I'd suggest that if your wife can't get a handle on her obsession to pour salt on everything that touches her lips, you encourage her to get her blood pressure checked regularly to make sure it's at a healthy level.
Although your wife may not have high blood pressure, her kidneys are working awfully hard to deal with her salt intake. Over time, this can strain her poor kidneys, which can damage them and lead to kidney disease. Not only that, but a high-salt diet is also associated with higher risk for stomach cancer. Maybe knowing this will help curb her salty habit, and save you from having to pry the salt shaker from your wife's tight grasp.