Karen Schroeder Kassel, MS, RD, MEd
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends eating less than 1,500 mg of sodium a day.
High sodium intake can increase the risk of having high blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart attack or stroke. Some people may be more sensitive to salt than others, but most Americans are still getting much more sodium in their diets then they need. There is evidence that if adults eat less sodium, their blood pressure decreases.
Since it is difficult to know who among us will benefit most from less salt, most organizations recommend that we all limit our salt intake. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, adults should limit their salt intake to no more than 2,300 mg per day. And those with high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease, as well as African Americans and adults 51 years or older should limit their sodium intake to less than 1,500 mg a day.
A major study in this area is DASH, the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. This study found that a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products, and low in saturated fat, cholesterol, and saturated fat helped lower blood pressure. This is now known as the DASH diet. The second phase of the study found further reductions in blood pressure when the DASH diet was combined with a sodium intake of no more than 2,300 mg per day.
Sodium is found in many foods. Some are obvious, but others may surprise you.
Table salt, also known as sodium chloride, is the major source of dietary sodium. About 1/3 to 1/2 of the sodium we consume is added during cooking or at the table.
Fast foods and commercially processed foods, such as canned, frozen, instant, also add a significant amount of sodium to the typical American diet. These include:
Sodium occurs naturally in:
All food products contain a Nutrition Facts label, which states a food's sodium content. The following terms are also used on food packaging:
Making dietary changes takes time, so go slowly and allow your taste buds to adjust.
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
Health Canada Food and Nutrition
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
DASH diet. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php. Updated March 3, 2013. Accessed March 13, 2013.
Dietary guidelines for Americans 2010. US Department of Agriculture and US Department of Health and Human Services. Available at: http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/dga2010/DietaryGuidelines2010.pdf. Accessed March 13, 2013.
Hypertension. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php. Updated March 5, 2013. Accessed March 13, 2013.
Reduce salt and sodium in your diet. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/hbp/prevent/sodium/sodium.htm. Accessed March 13, 2013.
Salt. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/salt/index.htm. Updated December 14, 2012. Accessed March 13, 2013.
Salt and sodium. 10 tips to help you cut back. US Department of Agriculture Choose My Plate website. Available at: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/downloads/TenTips/DGTipsheet14SaltAndSodium.pdf. Accessed March 13, 2013.
Sodium. Health Vitamins Guide website. Available at: http://www.healthvitaminsguide.com/minerals/sodium.htm. Accessed March 13, 2013.
Sodium (salt or sodium chloride). American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyDietGoals/Sodium-Salt-or-Sodium-Chloride_UCM_303290_Article.jsp. Updated March 5, 2013. Accessed March 13, 2013.
Last reviewed March 2013 by Brian Randall, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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