We all love a good salty snack. There are times when nothing satisfies that snacking craving like a salty treat, and the enormity of the snack and fast food industries proves that fact. While we all know that these foods aren’t that great for us, most of us don’t realize just how bad they really are, affecting our health in both the short-term and the long-term. In the short term, high salt intake can raise blood pressure, cause kidney stones, and increase your chance of heart attack. In the long-term, eating too much salt can actually affect aging, speeding it up and increasing the likelihood of chronic disease or complications. But how? How does an increased salt intake really affect our long-term aging processes?
First off, a high salt intake can cause some serious damage to the heart. When you eat too much salt, the kidneys begin to struggle with the influx of sodium in the bloodstream, and the body accumulates and holds onto water to try and dilute the blood. This increases the blood volume in the body, and the heart has to work much harder. Over time, this extra work can lead to stiffened blood vessels that are more prone to heart attack and stroke as well as a weakened heart muscle that can struggle with the task of keeping your blood pumping. Basically eating too much salt prematurely ages the heart because it makes it work much harder for much longer. So at 45, your heart may have had to do the same amount of work as someone aged 65. And not only that, but the increased water retention can leave you looking older as well, causing puffiness, bloating, and weight gain that add instant years to your appearance.
Another way that increased salt intake affects aging is by damaging the bones. When sodium leaves the body through your urine stream, it takes calcium along with it, some of which comes directly from the bones. In addition, new research is also showing that when sodium intake levels are increased, calcium absorption levels are decreased, and the body cannot get the calcium it needs back into the bones to restore them. This leads to osteoporosis, or brittle bones, a condition most people, particularly women, experience with aging. Again, high levels of sodium speed up this process. Not only does osteoporosis make mobility and activity more difficult, it can cause bad posture, such as humps, arches, and stooped backs, which definitely makes us look older faster.
But perhaps the most shocking thing about an increased sodium intake is that it can actually increase the speed of cellular aging, making every cell in your body older. Scientists have found that people with high salt diets had shorter telomeres, protective caps at the ends of the chromosomes that show the age of the cell. Each time a cell divides, the telomere shortens. When it gets too short, the cell dies. Eating a diet high is salt is actually causing your cells to get to that point where they can no longer divide fast, literally aging each cell in your body at a rapid rate.
So if you’re eating too much salt, you’re not just harming your health in the short-term, you are actually causing your body to age faster. And who wants that? Moderation of salt in the diet is key, and by reducing this one simple thing, you can greatly increase your youth and vitality and keep yourself from aging prematurely.