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What does sodium have to do with heart health? Well, when we consume a lot of sodium, it enters the bloodstream. When this happens it pulls water into the blood vessels, increasing the volume in the blood vessels, hence increasing blood pressure. This puts an extra burden on the heart. Although sodium is essential for life, Americans consume too much sodium.

The American Heart Associations sets an ideal limit of 1500 mg of sodium per day for most adults. Even cutting back to 1000 mg per day can improve blood pressure.

Most of the sodium that we consume comes from prepared foods, like processed and packaged foods. Read the label for salt, sodium chloride, monosodium glutamate, and disodium phosphate. The "Salty Six" are breads/rolls, pizza, soup, cold cuts/cured meats, poultry, and sandwiches. Sodium also hides in cheeses, salted snacks/nuts, frozen dinners, condiments, pickles/olives, seasoned salts, and sauces.

Foods with less than 140 mg or less of sodium are considered low sodium. To reduce sodium in your diet avoid adding table salt to foods and instead flavor with spices. Also choose low sodium or no sodium added products, choose fresh or frozen over canned, rinse canned beans and vegetables, and always read the label.

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