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Aug 17, 2017

Too Much Salt Puts Added Stress on Heart

A recent study confirms that consuming more than 3,700 mg of sodium daily taxes the heart.

Excess sodium intake puts added stress on the heart, based on a recent study that found adults consuming more than 3,700 mg of sodium a day had reduced heart function.

Published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, this study looked at the association between sodium intake and heart function. It included nearly 3,000 U.S. adults participating in the Hypertension Genetic Epidemiology study, which investigates the genetics of high blood pressure.

Participants came from four U.S. sites including Salt Lake City, UT; Forsyth County, NC; Minneapolis, MN; and Birmingham, AL. Upon enrollment, participants underwent imaging to assess heart function and provided urine samples, which were used to assess sodium intake.

Half had high blood pressure at the start of the study, which was defined as having a blood pressure of 140/90 mmHg or higher.

Based on urine analysis performed at the start of the study, participants consumed a median of 3,730 mg a day, which is high but similar to the average American diet. Currently dietary guidelines recommend no more than 2,300 mg of sodium daily, with lower levels for patients at higher risk for heart problems.

When comparing imaging results from echocardiograms, researchers found that adults consuming more than 3,700 mg of sodium a day had larger hearts and poorer heart function than those consuming less sodium. This association existed after accounting for factors that could impact heart function, like age, sex, smoking status and alcohol use.

Recent studies have cast doubt on sodium guidelines after linking both low and high sodium levels to increased health risks. However, findings confirm that excess sodium consumption can put added stress on the heart, potentially increasing risk for high blood pressure and heart disease.

Findings also highlight the need for Americans to significantly reduce sodium consumption to promote better health. The average American consumes more than 3,400 mg of sodium a day—similar to the excess levels of sodium consumption linked to poor heart function in this study. Thus, it’s important that Americans become more aware of how much sodium they consume and take steps to limit sodium to stay within current dietary guidelines to improve health.

Questions for You to Consider

  • What can I do to reduce my sodium intake?
  • Most of the sodium you get each day comes from processed foods rather than salt you use in cooking and at the table. Here are some tips to help you shake the sodium out of your diet: 

    • Avoid prepared foods. High sodium foods include:

      • Salty snacks such as chips and pretzels
      • Canned soups and sauces
      • Cured meats such as bacon and ham
      • Foods packed in salt water such as pickles, olives, and canned tuna
      • Frozen pizzas and dinners
      • Fast food

    • Use fresh foods whenever possible. Good choices include:

      • Fresh, frozen, or canned vegetables without added salt
      • Fresh meats, fish, and poultry rather than cooked or prepared items
      • Herbs and spices as seasoning instead than salt

    • Learn to read food labels.  Look at the “Nutrition Facts” panel on the label of packaged foods. This will tell you how much sodium is in the food.  When figuring out your sodium intake from the food label, keep in mind:

      • The milligrams (mg) listed is per serving. It is not for the whole package.  If you eat more or less than what they consider one serving, you’ll have to do the math to figure out how much sodium you are getting.

      • The percent of daily value (% DV) is based on 2400 mg a day, not the recommended 1500 mg. That means the sodium in a serving is a higher percent of your daily limit than what is listed on the label.

    • Choose carefully in restaurants. Restaurant food is high in sodium. Some ways to eat out and still keep your sodium level under control include:

      • Having your meal prepared without added salt
      • Asking that sauces, gravies, and salad dressings be served on the side
      • Selecting fresh vegetables, fruits, and salads and plain meats or fish from the menu
  • What foods should I avoid when trying to limit sodium intake?

  • While many foods naturally contain small amounts of sodium, it is estimated that 75 percent of dietary sodium comes from processed foods. When limiting salt intake, try to avoid prepared meals and limit consumption of condiments, canned and frozen foods, and packaged snacks, which contain some of the highest concentrations of sodium. Always read food labels when possible to help accurately measure your salt intake each day.

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