Reducing Sodium Intake Promotes a Healthy Heart

A heart attack strikes someone approximately every 43 seconds and is the leading cause of death in the United States, according to the American Heart Association (AHA).

Many Americans have developed a taste for a high salt diet which can contribute to high blood pressure (HBP). HBP, commonly called a “silent disease” since most are unaware they have it, causes an increase in the workload of the heart and blood vessels making them less efficient.

“Cutting back on table salt can help reduce sodium intake and lower blood pressure – yet most sodium in our diets stems from packaged and processed foods,” said Joseph Yeboah, MD, assistant professor of cardiology at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. “High blood pressure due to excessive salt intake can lead to an enlarged heart, heart attacks, congestive heart failure and strokes.”

Americans roughly consume 75 percent of their sodium from processed foods like soups, tomato sauce, condiments and canned goods. Words such as soda, sodium or the symbol “Na” on labels indicate that those products contain sodium compounds. Certain canned and frozen food labels help consumers minimize their salt intake by identifying salt levels as “low salt” or “low sodium” on the packaging, according to the AHA.

The AHA and Yeboah recommend the below tips to minimize sodium consumption.

Cook Smart

  • Avoid adding salt and canned vegetables to homemade dishes.
  • Use spices and herbs to enhance the natural flavor of food.
  • Select unsalted or low-sodium fat-free broths or soups.
  • Use fruit and raw vegetables as snacks.
  • Remove the salt shaker from the table.

Dining Out

  • Familiarize yourself with low-sodium foods and look for them on the menu.
  • When ordering, request dishes be prepared without salt.
  • Add fresh lemon juice instead of salt to season fish and vegetables.

The AHA recommends no more than 2,300 mg (1 teaspoon) per day of salt for adults. Table salt is approximately 40 percent sodium – sea salt and kosher salt often contain as much sodium as table salt.

“Salt certainly has minerals needed for the normal functioning of our bodies, but it also can have harmful effects when we consume too much,” Yeboah said. “It may take some time to adjust to a lower sodium diet, but there are delicious options for flavorful low-sodium meals.”