February is American heart month, quite timely considering we celebrate Valentine’s Day in just 11 days. But I’m not talking romance or that special person that makes your heart skip a beat. I’m talking about the heart that pumps your blood; the one that keeps you alive, literally.
Cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death in the US. It accounts for 17.3 million deaths per year, a number that is expected to grow to more than 23.6 million by 2030. One in every three deaths is from heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure. It is the No. 1 killer of American women and men, and it is a leading cause of serious illness and disability. While there are many, many precautions we can take to protect our heart, one simple step is to focus on reducing sodium in the diet.
It’s a known fact that sodium increases blood pressure, a major cause of heart disease and stroke. About 90% of Americans eat more sodium than is recommended for a healthy diet. A study published in 2012 by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) identified the top 10 sources of sodium in the US diet. While the obvious source of sodium is the salt shaker, that didn’t even make the list. That’s because salting your food at the table is usually not the problem. It’s the foods we eat that provide the majority of the sodium in our diet. Here’s what they found:
- CDC Rate Top 10 Sodium Sources in Our Diet:
To make the heart healthy change that you need, you first need to understand how much sodium you require. Americans eat on average a whopping 3,300 mg of sodium a day. That’s 1,000 mg more than the 2,300 mg/day recommendation spelled out in The U.S. Dietary Guidelines. In addition, at risk adults (those with HTN, chronic kidney disease, diabetes, African Americans or people ages 51 or older) should further limit sodium to 1,500 mg a day. So while we do need some sodium, for most Americans, less is best!
So how can you make sure you don’t exceed the recommendations? Here are a few things to get you started:
1.) Flip the package and read the label
Pay attention to how much sodium is in the items you purchase. Start now learning about what foods are high and low. Keeping track of how much sodium you are getting is a start.
2.) Comparison shop
Different brands of the same food will have different amounts of sodium. For example, compare your current bread with a different brand. You might be able to save yourself some sodium just by swapping one brand for another.
3.) Eat at home more often
About 25% of the sodium we consume comes from restaurants and it’s not always easy to tell how much sodium is in that food. Eating at home gives us more control over how we prepare our foods, and therefore how much sodium we consume.
4.) Swap processed for fresh when possible.
Fresh fruits & vegetables have little to no sodium in them and should be included in the foundation of your healthy diet. Check out Simple Food Swaps that Can Slash Sodium for more examples.
5.) Eat Less.
The more you eat the more sodium you get! It’s much easier to stick to the sodium guidelines if you are sticking to your calories limit too.
Athletes and those that participate in extensive activity may need to replace some sodium that is lost in sweat, but it is not an open invitation to eat highly processed foods. Athletes are not immune to cardiovascular disease, and should still be mindful of how much sodium they consume.
For more information or to review the full study visit: http://www.cdc.gov/VitalSigns/Sodium/