Sodium and Heart Health Tips

fork cutting into a gummy heart while salt is sprinkled on it

Cardiologist Dr. Frank Grzywacz gives the lowdown on sodium and tips for using alternatives to salt.

How Does Sodium Affect Heart Health?

Eating too much sodium can raise blood pressure and lead to hypertension (high blood pressure). Sodium makes a person retain excess fluid in the body, which is an added burden to your heart.

About 1 in 3 U.S. adults has high blood pressure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Only about half of people with high blood pressure have their condition under control. High blood pressure is a serious condition that can lead to heart disease, heart failure, stroke, kidney damage and other health problems.

High blood pressure has no symptoms and is often called a "silent killer." Because blood pressure tends to rise as you get older, risk for high blood pressure increases with age. About 9 of 10 Americans will develop high blood pressure during their lifetimes, according to the CDC.

How Much Salt Is Recommended?

Most people consume about 3,400 milligrams of sodium a day. That's more than twice the amount of 1,500 milligrams recommended by the American Heart Association.

It's not primarily the salt shaker that's raising our sodium intake. About 75 percent of the sodium we consume comes from processed or packaged foods and restaurant meals. Processed foods include soup, tomato sauce, condiments, canned food and prepared mixes.

Tasty Alternatives To Salt

Herbs and spices are great ways to add flavor to your food without adding more sodium. Fresh herbs are bountiful during summer months.

"Just because you're trying to reduce your sodium intake doesn't mean you have to sacrifice flavor," notes cardiologist Frank Grzywacz. "Try to be creative with fresh herbs this summer to add flavor to your favorite foods."

Tips For Cooking With Herbs

  • Add fresh herbs at the end of the cooking process
  • Store fresh herbs in the refrigerator
  • Ditch any dried herbs that are older than one year
  • For a tasty rub or marinade, combine rosemary, parsley and garlic with some lemon juice and use with chicken, pork or lamb
  • For fish, whisk together 3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce, 2 teaspoons vinegar and 3 minced garlic cloves. Slowly whisk in 1 teaspoon olive oil until combined. Place in zip-top plastic bag with your fish and soak in the refrigerator for up to 1 hour before cooking. (American Heart Association)

Walking To Lower Blood Pressure

Just like too much sodium, physical inactivity is a risk factor for high blood pressure. Not getting enough exercise can cause weight gain, which can lead to high blood pressure.

Walking has many health benefits, and lowering blood pressure is an important one.

Join us for our next Walk with a Doc

You're invited to walk with us! It's free and you'll get lots of good information in addition to giveaways and refreshments. Walk with a Doc is made possible by generous support from the Friends of the Heart Institute.

About Doylestown Health's Heart & Vascular Services

Expert cardiologists and cardiac surgeons assist patients and physicians with managing risk factors for heart disease, offer advanced treatment options and provide outstanding emergency cardiac care. Doylestown Hospital’s accredited Chest Pain Center is fully prepared to treat cardiac emergencies around the clock, focusing on rapid diagnosis and effective treatment. The multidisciplinary team at the Woodall Center for Heart and Vascular Care is dedicated to providing the highest level of quality care and patient safety.

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