Over time, eating too much salt can raise your blood pressure.

High blood pressure puts added force against the walls of your arteries (the blood vessels that carry blood towards your heart). Over time this extra pressure can damage the arteries, which makes them more likely to become narrowed and hardened by fatty deposits. And when this happens you are at higher risk of having a heart attack. And, the scary thing is, high blood pressure does not discriminate – anyone can develop it. It’s also very hard to tell if you have it because it rarely makes you feel unwell. To be on the safe side you should get your blood pressure checked with your doctor at routine check-ups.

Being physically active, maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking and limiting how much alcohol you drink can also help reduce your risk of developing high blood pressure.

What does excess salt do to the rest of my body?

This diagram details all the different parts of the body that excess salt consumption can affect over time.

In addition to the damage high blood pressure does to blood vessels, it can also reduce the blood flow to organs like the kidneys and the brain.

Your body removes unwanted fluid by filtering your blood through your kidneys. Eating too much salt reduces the ability of the kidneys to remove the extra water. The result is higher blood pressure and extra strain on the delicate blood vessels leading to the kidneys, potentially causing kidney damage and disease.

High blood pressure caused by eating too much salt can damage the arteries leading to the brain.

Over time the damage may become so severe that arteries burst or become completely clogged. The part of the brain affected by the damaged artery will no longer receive the oxygen and nutrients it needs and dies, resulting in a stroke.

Excess salt consumption has also been associated with osteoporosis (a condition causing fragile bones), stomach cancer, kidney stones and obesity.

It can also cause physical discomfort with water retention causing bloating and swelling.

Just a
30% reduction in salt = 800 lives saved

as well as $50 million in healthcare costs.

kids + salt

Nearly three quarters of school children in Victoria eat more salt than the recommended amount. This is a scary fact. It is well known that too much salt in adults can lead to high blood pressure, but new research shows that children are also at risk. People don’t tend to associate children with heart disease or high blood pressure, but this new evidence is shaking up our thinking. It shows that too much salt can affect blood pressure in children, which can lead to heart disease and strokes in the future.

Kids pick up so many of their taste preferences when they are young – including a love of salt. The more they are exposed to salty foods in childhood, the more they will crave them. This taste preference can stay with them throughout their life and can lead to excess salt consumption as adults. That’s why it’s so important to set good habits from a young age.

Keep in mind that taste buds adapt quickly, so within a few weeks kids hopefully won’t even notice the lack of salt! A good way to help kids accept new foods is to involve them in the cooking process. Cooking with your kids can be a fun way to teach them about new foods and nutrition as well as helping them to develop positive relationships with food.

Check out our great low salt recipes.

The Salt Reduction Plan in Victoria

Victorians eat too much salt increasing the cost of blood pressure, heart disease and stroke on the public health system. In response, VicHealth established a Salt Reduction Partnership Group, including The George Institute for Global Health, The Heart Foundation (Victoria), Deakin University’s Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition (IPAN), National Stroke Foundation, Kidney Health Australia, Victorian Department of Health and Human Services, Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute, and the High Blood Pressure Research Council, to review the evidence, consult with stakeholders and develop an action plan for salt reduction in Victoria.

The action plan has the ambitious goal of reducing the average daily salt intake of Victorian adults and children with four intervention strategies: generating public debate, raising consumer awareness, strengthening policy initiatives, and supporting food industry innovation. For more information visit vichealth.gov.au