How Sodium Impacts Your Heart

Sodium is necessary for our bodies to function, yet too much sodium can have a negative effect on overall health. Most Americans consume much more than the recommended daily intake of sodium, which can impact their heart health. 

What is sodium?

Sodium is a mineral found in a variety of foods. Sodium is necessary for muscles and nerves to function properly, but in today’s world, too little sodium is not typically a problem. Instead, we deal with the negative effects of too much sodium.

Too much sodium can contribute to high blood pressure, particularly for those who are already at high risk for hypertension and other heart diseases. High salt intake pulls extra water into the bloodstream, increasing blood volume and directly causing high blood pressure. Over time high blood pressure contributes to plaque buildup, heart disease, and cardiovascular issues.

What is the recommended level for sodium intake?

Our bodies need 1,500 milligrams of sodium for daily functioning, but the maximum recommended daily intake is 2,300 mg. The average American diet sometimes includes twice the recommended daily amount. Most of this sodium comes from processed foods purchased at the grocery or from restaurant and fast food meals.

How can reducing sodium intake support heart health?

Reducing sodium can protect your heart by lowering your blood pressure and helping maintain a healthy weight. Those with certain heart conditions such as congestive heart failure may need to limit their sodium to less than the recommended minimum amount of 1,500 mg per day. 

The best way to lower sodium levels is to eat a variety of fresh, unprocessed foods, including plenty of fruits and vegetables. If purchasing processed foods, check the labels and look for those that have less than 5% of the daily recommended value of sodium. Many canned and boxed goods now offer low sodium options that can be part of a balanced diet. 

If you have a family history or have been diagnosed with high blood pressure or other heart disease, talk with your physician about your sodium intake and its impact on your specific heart condition.