If you’ve been diagnosed with high blood pressure, one of the things the doctor probably recommended to do is lower your intake of sodium. In truth, most Americans consume too much sodium in their diet and should cut back. But why is sodium so bad for you and how does it raise blood pressure?
Sodium – The Good and the Bad
Sodium does have a good side when eaten in limited amounts. According to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, sodium in necessary for:
- Controlling the fluids in the body
- Transmitting nerve impulses
- Contracting and relaxing of muscles
However, when eaten in excess, sodium can do damage to the body. The kidneys regulate sodium levels in the body. If sodium levels are too high, the kidneys aren’t able to eliminate it fast enough. High levels of sodium causes water retention, which in turn increases blood volume. This increase in blood volume causes the heart to work harder and the result in an increase in blood pressure. Over time, consistently high levels of sodium can lead to heart disease and kidney disease.
How much Sodium should You Have?
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) the recommended daily intake of sodium for a healthy adult is 2,400 milligrams. This equals to about one teaspoon of table salt a day. For adults with high blood pressure, kidney disease or diabetes, or who are at high risk by being over age 50 or are of African American descent, the daily intake should be 1,500 milligrams or less.
How to Lower Sodium in the Diet
For most Americans, 77% of sodium in their diet comes from prepared or processed foods. Canned vegetables, soups, cookies, crackers and luncheon meats as well as condiments like ketchup are just a few of the foods that contain sodium. Because of this, the majority of people eat much more sodium than their body needs. Ways to limit sodium in your diet are:
- Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables instead of canned or frozen.
- Limit use of condiments such as salad dressings, ketchup, relish, dips, sauces and mustard
- Flavor foods with herbs and spices instead of salt.
- Purchase low-sodium products
- Limit the amount of processed foods you eat like crackers, cookies and other snack foods.
- Eat lean, fresh meat instead of processed meats like hot dogs, lunch meats, sausage and bacon.
- Read nutrition labels on food packages to check how much sodium is in each product.
Limiting salt and sodium in the diet is a good habit for everyone to get into whether or not they have high blood pressure. Avoid a high sodium diet now so you can enjoy a healthy life for years to come.