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Good Housekeeping
Charlene J. Owen, Contributor
September 20, 2012

Stress Coupled with Salt Retention May Lead to Hypertension

Excess salt in your body is never a good thing, especially if it piles up every time you get stressed. By Charlene J. Owen

There is a long list of health conditions directly and indirectly brought about by stress, and it seems that researchers have found a new item to add to it. reported on a new study that discusses the relationship of stress, sodium retention, and hypertension. Dr. Gregory Hashfield and his team from the Institute of Public and Preventive Health at Georgia Health Sciences University gathered data from African American individuals and discovered that getting stressed caused the participants' bodies to retain 160 mg of salt. This in turn raised their average systolic heart rate (the pressure within blood vessels per heartbeat) by seven points.

As these individuals were exposed to stress, researchers observed a drastic increase in sodium buildup. At the end of the day, participants consumed an average of 3,700 mg of salt, a far cry from the recommended 1,500 mg. Since the amount of sodium in the body seems to be directly correlated to blood pressure, just imagine what damage it could do in the long run.

Not sure how can sodium buildup affect your blood pressure? According to the study, stress activates the sympathetic nervous system, which controls every individual’s fight-or-flight instinct. Once kick-started by tension-filled situations, it may force the body to go into overdrive, affecting sodium elimination and raising blood pressure.

"Everybody knows stress is bad for you, and everybody has the perception that a high-salt diet is bad for you, and both are particularly bad for these individuals," Hashfield explains. "Every time they are stressed, they hold onto as much salt as you get eating a small order of French fries and this can occur many times over the course of even a good day."

In order to avoid this, try keeping a low-sodium diet and steer clear from salty food like chips and pretzels. Drink lots of water within the day to flush out excess salt from your system. Lastly, learn to keep calm during high-pressure situations. This way, your body won’t unnecessarily jump into “fight mode,” and you can steer clear of the unhealthy physical, emotional, and mental aftereffects.

(Photo by jmackinnell via Flickr Creative Commons)

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