Many people eat too much salt (sodium). Most of the salt comes from eating processed foods (75%), or adding salt to food while cooking and using the salt shaker at meals (5% to 10%). On average, the more salt a person eats, the higher his or her blood pressure. Eating less salt is an important way to reduce the risk of high blood pressure, which may in turn reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, congestive heart failure, and kidney damage. To reduce the amount of sodium in your diet, eat less processed food and use less salt while cooking and at the table.
Other lifestyle changes may prevent or delay getting high blood pressure and may help lower elevated blood pressure. These include eating more potassium-rich foods, losing excess weight, being more physically active, and eating a healthy diet. If you drink alcoholic beverages, do so in moderation.
Did you know that sodium and potassium both impact blood pressure? A diet rich in potassium helps to counterbalance some of sodium’s harmful effects on blood pressure.
Older adults should aim for no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium each day.
This is about 3/4 teaspoon of salt. You should also try to get 4,700 milligrams of potassium each day.
Here are some tips for eating less salt and more potassium:
- When you’re choosing packaged foods, check the sodium content on the Nutrition Facts label. Focus on the milligrams of sodium in each serving. Use the percent Daily Value (% DV) to help limit your sodium intake. Five percent DV or less is low and 20% DV or more is high. You don’t want to exceed a total of 65% DV for sodium from all foods in a day. Sixty-five percent DV is 1,500 milligrams of sodium.
- Compare sodium content for similar foods. This can really make a difference. Use the Nutrition Facts label to select brands that are lower in sodium.
- Use the claims on the front of the food package to quickly identify foods that contain less salt or that are a good source of potassium. Examples include “low in sodium,” “very low sodium,” and “high in potassium.”
- When you’re preparing food at home, use herbs and spices to add flavor to your foods. Don’t salt foods before or during cooking—and limit use at the table.
- While salt substitutes containing potassium chloride may be useful for some individuals, they can be harmful to people with certain medical conditions. Consult your healthcare provider before using salt substitutes.
- When you’re eating out, ask that your meal be prepared without salt or ask your wait person to identify foods that are made without salt.