Women Take Heart: Your Love of Salt puts Your Heart at Risk

If you are like most people you keep a salt shaker on your table at each meal and you add salt to every recipe you cook. Did you know your love of salt is putting you and your heart at risk?

“Most Americans have too much salt in their diet. It is time that we become friends with salt. It is a necessary part of our diet, but we need to use it wisely,” said Jeffrey Reichard, MD, Cardiologist at St. Elizabeth Heart & Vascular Institute.

Our body needs sodium to survive, but too much sodium can overwhelm the kidneys and cause you to retain the water that is in salt.

Dr. Reichard says, “Our kidneys do a good job of filtering out too much sodium or retaining sodium if we aren’t getting enough, but most Americans tend to overindulge in salt and the kidneys can’t keep up. Then your body retains water to try to regulate the amount of sodium in your blood stream.”

When you retain water, it raises blood pressure and puts you at an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, kidney disease and heart failure.

Dr. Reichard explained that high blood pressure is a leading risk factor for death. Even if you don’t have high blood pressure today, you don’t get a pass to eat salt. Less sodium will significantly lessen your chance of getting high blood pressure as you age, it also reduces your risk of developing kidney disease and other heart-related conditions.

The average American consumes more than 3,400 milligrams of sodium each day. The American Heart Association recommends you have between 1,500 and 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day.

Dr. Reichard says, “Most people get sodium from what they buy in grocery stores and restaurants. Only 10 to 20 percent of daily sodium intake comes from your salt shaker.”

6 Tips to Lower Your Daily Sodium Intake

Dietitian Sheri Kanarek, RD, LD, System Clinical Nutrition Manager at St. Elizabeth Healthcare gives us some tips on how to keep our salt intake to a minimum.

  1. Use fresh herbs instead of salt. Fresh herbs add a lot of flavor and they are easy to grow in your house or on your patio in the spring and summer.
  2. Eliminate salt from recipes and from your table. The taste of most recipes won’t change if you eliminate the salt. Try it and see if you can tell the difference.
  3. Plan out meals at home. Eating meals that you prepare yourself gives you control over the amount of sodium you get. Plan out your meals at the beginning of the week and stick to the plan.
  4. Avoid processed foods. Adding more fruits and vegetable to your diet as you limit the amount of processed foods will help you lower your sodium intake.
  5. Avoid foods with hidden salts. Many foods have that you wouldn’t think have salt are loaded with sodium—lunch meats, breads, cheese, canned soups, canned vegetables, condiments and sauces.
  6. Read your food labels. When you are grocery shopping, read the food labels. Look for items that have 140 mg or less. Don’t forget to check serving size.

“Processed foods and canned foods in your diet will ensure you will be over the daily recommendation of sodium,” Sheri said. She recommends an overall heart-healthy diet. “If you follow a heart-healthy diet emphasizing fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish and nuts, and limiting red meat, sweets and sugar-sweetened beverages, you will lower your sodium intake as well. It also won’t hurt to throw away your salt shaker.”

To learn more about how and why you should limit sodium, join Dr. Reichard and Sheri on Tuesday, April 24, at the Women Take Take Heart: Wine and Watercolor event. You will learn more about cooking with fresh herbs while you paint a flowerpot that you can use to get your herb garden started. The event will be held from 5:30 – 8:30 p.m. at the St. Elizabeth Training and Education Center.

Seating is limited and reservations are required by Tuesday, April 17. Register online at stelizabeth.com/wineandwatercolor or for more information call 859-301-WELL (9355).