AS Nigerians continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, experts have said that a high-salt diet is not only bad for blood pressure control but also for safeguarding a good immune system.
A former president, Nephrology Society of Nigeria and Provost, College of Medical Sciences, University of Benin, Professor Efosa Oviasu on the heels of activities marking the 2020 World Hypertension Day, said evidence had shown that reduced salt intake to a large extent can help in lowering blood pressure with or without medications.
According to Professor Oviasu, “Low salt intake is advisable whereas if you take a high amount of salt it may worsen your blood pressure control. So to a large extent, it depends on the severity of hypertension to determine the level to which salt intake or salt reduction can help in controlling your blood pressure.”
The don, while noting that salt is the main source of sodium, a mineral which is essential for the human body to function, stated that when sodium is present in high amount in the bloodstream, it could affect the blood vessels’ ability to expand and bear the tension with time.
He added, “to cope with the extra strain, the tiny muscles in the artery walls become stronger and thicker. Yet this only makes the space inside the arteries smaller and raises the blood pressure even higher.
“This cycle of increasing blood pressure, which occurs slowly over a number of years can ultimately lead to the arteries bursting or becoming so narrow that they then clog up entirely.”
Head of immunology department, College of Medicine, University of Ibadan, Professor Ganiyu Arinola also cautioned Nigerians against consuming more than 5 gms or a teaspoon full of salt a day because excess salt can impair body immunity.
According to Professor Arinola, high salt intake has been shown to have adverse effects on the immune system in animal studies.”
The expert, noting that high intake of salt can lead to hypertension, obesity, cancer and some autoimmune disorders, stated that a high salt diet can cause an inflammatory process that ends up weakening body immunity.
“COVID-19 also causes inflammation that is why people are looking for anti-inflammatory drugs to give. Likewise, the inflammatory response induced by high salt intake may also predispose one to severe forms of COVID-19.”
High blood pressure is the most important risk factor for cardiovascular disease. A recent World Health Organisation report states that elevated blood pressure alone causes an average 50 per cent of cardiovascular disease worldwide.
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