Salt: Are you getting too much?

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Tips for Maintaining a Diet with Healthy Sodium Limit

Do you know if you’re getting too much daily salt in the foods and beverages you enjoy? The truth is, you probably are.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), the average American consumes more than 3,400 mg of sodium each day. That’s nearly 50% more than the recommended daily limit of 2,300 mg as outlined by the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans – and more than twice the AHA’s ideal limit of 1,500 mg of sodium per day for most adults.

But you don’t have to be a statistic. With a little care, you can help keep your sodium intake under control.

“Reducing your sodium intake is one of the most effective steps you can take to prevent cardiovascular disease,” says Darek Sanford MD, Cardiologist with the Florence Wormald Heart & Vascular Institute at St. Elizabeth. “Limiting salt in your day-to-day diet can go a long way toward reducing your risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, heart attack and stroke.”

How Do I Limit My Sodium Intake?

Check the sodium content of food and beverages with a quick scan of the nutrition facts label on their packaging. Choose foods that, ideally, have less than 5% of the recommended daily allowance of sodium per serving.

Whenever possible, choose “low-salt” or “no-salt” options for staples such as soups, crackers, dressings and condiments.

Rarely eat foods high in sodium – including processed foods like lunch meats and hot dogs – and be on the lookout for surprising sources of sodium, such as sodas and sports drinks.

Prioritize eating fresh fruits and vegetables over commercially processed and packaged foods, which are typically high in sodium. Similarly, limit the amount of fast-food and restaurant food you enjoy regularly since it’s easier to control your sodium intake when you’re preparing your meals at home.

Recognizing that prepared and restaurant foods are a large driver of Americans’ high-sodium habit, the FDA announced new guidelines last fall meant to encourage the reduction of sodium in 163 categories of processed, prepared and pre-packaged foods.

“Many people are surprised to learn that more than 70% of the sodium the average American consumes comes from packaged and prepared foods as well as restaurant foods,” says Dr. Sanford. “Avoiding highly processed foods is an important step in helping reduce your overall sodium intake.”

Finally, if you feel your food needs just a dash more flavor, use pepper or other herbs and seasonings, or consider salt substitutes with potassium instead of reaching for the saltshaker.

What Should I Do If I Have Questions About My Heart Health?

Eating well, exercising and reducing your sodium intake are great ways to keep your heart healthy. But if you have questions about your heart health – or if you have symptoms such as repeated headaches or high blood pressure – make it a priority to talk with a doctor. Schedule an appointment with a cardiologist with Florence Wormald Heart & Vascular Institute at St. Elizabeth by visiting stelizabeth.com/heart or calling (859) 287-3045.