Americans simply eat too much salt.
Most of us average more than 3,400 milligrams of sodium per day, even though the USDA's Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends 2,300 mg each day for healthy young adults and 1,500 mg for those who are "salt sensitive" -- those whose blood pressure increases more dramatically with salt intake (these include: people who already have hypertension or one of several other illnesses, are over age 50, or are African American). Meanwhile, the American Heart Association recommends that everyone limit their salt intake to 1,500 milligrams.
And while 1,500 milligrams might sound like a substantial allowance, it's actually quite small: a single teaspoon of table salt has 2,325 milligrams of sodium -- more than a day's worth by even the more liberal guideline.
What's so dangerous about salt, anyway? While a little bit is essential, a diet high in sodium can cause strain on the heart, explains the Mayo Clinic. That's because when we consume excess salt, it stays in our bloodstream, attracting water and creating a greater volume of blood. That, in turn, increases blood pressure as the heart has to work harder and the arteries endure more to move more blood. High blood pressure increases the likelihood that a blood vessel will clog or rupture, causing a cardiac event.
For example, those who have excessively high blood pressure, of which diet plays a significant part, have more than twice the lifetime risk of stroke compared to those who have consistently normal (a reading of 120/80) blood pressure, according to the National Stroke Association.
So what can we do? The American Heart Association released a challenge last week, asking Americans to focus on lowering their salt intake with six tips. Read on for their tips and more!
Have you successfully lowered your sodium intake? Tell us how in the comments.