Why should I consume less sodium (salt)?

Natalie Castro-Romero, MS, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics
Foods low in salt lower your risk for high blood pressure and may help you control it. Aim to consume less than 2,300 mg of salt or sodium per day. Some people -- including African Americans, middle-age and older adults, and people with high blood pressure -- should have less than 1,500 mg per day. 
If you eat like most Americans, you consume almost 3 to 4 times the amount of sodium you need every day. This can lead to excess fluid in your body (bloating) and raise your blood pressure. Dietary guidelines recommend that most people reduce sodium to 1,500 mg or less per day (down from the previous recommendation of 2,300 mg per day).
Edward Phillips
Physical Therapy
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, two out of three Americans are salt-sensitive, which means excess sodium will raise their blood pressure. (Table salt is 40% sodium by weight.) One in three Americans suffers from hypertension (high blood pressure). And that disease accounts for roughly one in six deaths every year, many from heart disease and stroke, say experts at the Institute of Medicine. A study using computer-generated models of salt consumption estimated that bumping down daily sodium consumption from the current daily average of 3,400 milligrams (mg) to 2,300 mg (about a teaspoon of table salt) could reduce the number of people with hypertension by 11.1 million. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends a daily limit of no more than 1,500 mg of sodium, yet acknowledges that Americans who eat a good deal of processed foods (a major source of sodium) aren't likely to attain this. Instead, the AHA suggests aiming for 2,300 mg a day as an interim goal.
About 90% of Americans eat more sodium, (a component of salt), than is recommended for a healthy diet. Too much sodium increases a person's risk for high blood pressure. High blood pressure often leads to heart disease and stroke. More than 800,000 people die each year from heart disease, stroke, and other vascular diseases, costing the nation $273 billion health care dollars in 2010.

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Cutting back on sodium is important for anyone with high blood pressure or heart failure, or anyone who tends to retain fluids. Less sodium means less fluid in your body -- and a lighter workload for your heart.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Salt is a big problem for those few people who are salt-sensitive. It's less of a problem for most of us, but still an unhealthy factor in our diets.

The average person takes in 4000 mg of sodium a day. That raises blood pressure by 40/20 mm/Hg in some people.

Decreasing sodium to 2300 mg for young whites and 1500 mg for all others (minorities and older whites), would save 150,000 lives in the United States, and make your blood pressure 7/4 lower.

To put in perspective, if we eliminate trans fats from the American diet, we would save 50,000 lives per year. So reducing salt to the levels above would have three times that impact.

Salt is sneaky, as it's in foods that we don't associate with salt. Even bread has lots of salt. Sea salt is not safer, but since the taste is stronger, people tend to use less of it.

Continue Learning about Sodium

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.