Can Eating Too Much Salt Raise Your Cholesterol?

Key Points on Cholesterol

Cholesterol itself isn't bad for you. It's your levels of cholesterol that matter most. In fact, humans need cholesterol — a waxy substance found in all the cells in your body — for such essential functions as synthesizing hormones and vitamin D and as a building block for human tissue, notes the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

What to Know About Salt

Your body also needs salt to function, explains the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Technically called sodium chloride, salt is essential to conduct nerve impulses, contract and relax muscles and maintain a proper balance of water and minerals, says Harvard. You need about 500 milligrams of sodium each day for these vital functions, it says.

Consuming too much salt can lead to high blood pressure, known as hypertension, by making it harder for the kidneys to remove unwanted fluid from your body. That can strain your heart, weaken the heart muscle and damage the arterial walls, notes the Cleveland Clinic.

Most Americans consume way too much salt: at least 1 1/2 teaspoons, or 3,400 milligrams, a day — more than twice what the National Institutes of Health (NIH) says people 14 years and older should consume.

The Salt-Cholesterol Connection

So both too much salt and too much cholesterol can raise your risk for heart disease. But does too much salt raise cholesterol levels? That's unlikely, experts say.

"There's not much of a link between salt and cholesterol unless you're eating a lot of processed meats and cheeses, which are sources of both sodium and cholesterol," says Penny Kris-Etherton, PhD, RDN, distinguished professor of nutrition at Penn State University and a fellow of the American Heart Association.

Bottom Line for Your Heart

So what's the best advice for healthy hearts? The NIH, AHA, and others recommend the following:

Read more on: livestrong