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How can lowering my salt intake benefit my heart health?

Reducing salt intake should lower cardiovascular disease. Certainly, our contemporary diet rich in processed foods and fast foods contains much more salt than we require.

For an individual the situation is more nuanced. Some people tolerate high amounts of salt in their diets without developing high blood pressure. Others have raised blood pressure in response to dietary salt. In general, people with high blood pressure should strive to limit salt intake. For the general public we lack rigorous intervention trials to show a benefit of salt restriction, but the information we have available shows that limiting intake of processed and fast foods probably confers multiple health benefits.
Cutting back on salt is important for everyone, but especially for people with high blood pressure, heart failure, or people who tend to retain fluids. Less sodium means less fluid in your body -- and a lighter workload for your heart. Keep your sodium intake to 1,500 mg (about a half teaspoon) per day or less.
Here are some tips to help you meet your sodium target:
  • Avoid adding salt to your food while cooking or at the table.
  • Be aware that nearly all the foods you eat contain a little bit of sodium. Check food labels closely, and keep track of your total sodium intake each day.
  • Avoid processed foods, which are typically high in salt. For example, most canned foods, potato chips, pretzels, crackers, lunchmeats; salted nuts, and frozen dinners contain a lot of salt.
  • If you have a water softener, don’t use softened water for drinking or cooking water. Water softeners add quite a bit of sodium to the water. 
  • Use spices or flavorful foods such as onions and garlic to season meals without adding salt. However, watch out for onion salt and garlic salt, which contain sodium.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.