The scoop on salt and heart health

You may already know that too much sodium is not healthy, but did you know why?

An alarmingly 9 out of 10 Americans consume too much sodium. Diets high in sodium may put you at risk for enlarged heart muscle, headaches, kidney disease, osteoporosis, stroke, heart failure, high blood pressure, kidney stones, and stomach cancer. Excess levels of sodium/salt may cause increased water retention that leads to puffiness, bloating, and weight gain. If you already have any heart disease risk factors, sodium intake should be a top priority for you.

The American Heart Association recommends an intake of 1,500 milligrams of sodium for ideal heart health. How much are Americans consuming on average? More than double – 3,400 milligrams to be exact. So where is all this sodium coming from?

Overall, more than 70 percent of the sodium we eat comes from processed, prepackaged and restaurant foods (Source: How can you actively reduce your sodium intake?

First, be sure that your diet involves consuming mostly fruits, vegetables, and lean meats. When cooking these items, rely on other fresh items like herbs, onions, garlic, or citrus fruits to boost flavor.

Second, avoid the Salty Six. These are the six commons foods that add the most sodium to your diet. These include:

  1. Cold cuts and cured meats
  2. Pizza
  3. Soup
  4. Breads and rolls
  5. Chicken (check for added salt solutions, mostly found in products like nuggets)
  6. Burritos and tacos

The science behind sodium reduction is clear. Significant evidence links excess sodium intake with high blood pressure, which increases the risk of heart attack, stroke and heart failure (Source:

Sources and Recommended Reading:
Effects of Excess Sodium Infographic
Sodium sources: Where does all that sodium come from?
Get the scoop on sodium and salt
A closer look at the salty six