A low-sodium diet lowers blood pressure in most people, but too much can lead to or aggravate high blood pressure. People with high blood pressure are more likely to develop heart disease and stroke. People taking diuretics (water pills) to control their blood pressure should maintain a diet low in sodium to help the diuretic work better.
A low-sodium diet can also help improve these other conditions like asthma, Meniere’s disease (a disorder of the inner ear), migraine headaches, kidney stones, gastritis, ulcers and bone loss in postmenopausal women.
Your body’s daily requirement for sodium is only about a half gram, and the American Heart Association recommends no more than 2.3 grams a day (about a teaspoon of table salt). The AHA also recommends that if you have heart failure/CHF, you should reduce your sodium to 2 grams per day(less than a teaspoon).
Some ways to limit the salt in our diet are as easy as making changes such as eliminating the addition of extra salt in cooking, at the table, and eating fewer processed foods and more fresh fruits and vegetables. Our tastes change in response to our diets; if you lower the amount of salt in your diet, especially if you do so gradually, your taste for salt will decline after a while. You will also probably notice other flavors that you weren’t as aware of when your food was saltier.
Sodium can add up quickly in the following ways:
- during cooking
- as a table seasoning (salt shaker)
- in restaurant foods
- in processed, prepackaged or prepared foods (soups, chips, cheese and ice cream)
- as a natural preservative for meats and vegetables
Here are some ways to reduce your sodium intake:
- Don’t use salt in cooking.
- Don’t add salt at the table (or even have a salt shaker on the table).
- Steer clear of fast food; it is usually very salty.
- Add more fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet.
- Eliminate prepared and processed foods.
- Limit salty snacks.
- Limit cheeses & buttermilk products; they contain significant amounts of sodium.
- Read food labels for the sodium content.
- Use alternative flavors and spices such as lemon juice, vinegar, peppers, onion, and fresh herbs to season food.
- Eat bananas and other potassium-rich foods. Studies have shown that these foods can reduce the effect of sodium on blood pressure. Salt substitutes are fine to use, but because some are high in potassium, you should check with your doctor before adding them to your diet.
Renne and Karen
Submitted by Karen Callahan, RN, and Renne Pfister, RN, Chest Pain Center Coordinators at Franciscan St. Margaret Health
The Chest Pain Centers at both Franciscan St. Margaret Health’s Hammond and Dyer campuses were the first accredited centers in Northwest Indiana and only two of 27 in the state. Accreditation by the Society of Chest Pain Centers means that you can be confident that our Emergency and Cardiac departments have the right specialists, processes and equipment in place to provide the highest level of care for patients experiencing chest pain. Learn more +