For Immediate Release September 15, 2019

Brooke Sawicki

Brooke Sawicki, MS, RD, LDN

By: Brooke Sawicki, MS, RD, LDN

Have you ever heard the expression, “too much of a good thing is a bad thing?” This is true for sodium, especially when it comes to protecting our hearts. Sodium is a mineral that is essential for life. It is regulated by our kidneys and helps to control fluid balance, sends nerve impulses, and affects our muscle function. However, too much sodium in our diet can be harmful. It can pull excess water into our blood stream and increase the total volume of blood inside our blood vessels. This can lead to an increase in blood pressure, which requires the heart to have to pump harder to get the blood to where it needs to go in the body. High blood pressure is one of the main risk factors for heart disease. Excess sodium intake can contribute to fluid retention as well, which causes bloating, swelling, weight gain. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends consuming less than 2,300mg of sodium per day. For comparison, one teaspoon of salt contains about 2,300mg of sodium. 

Sodium is primarily found in table salt that is added during cooking and at the table, as well as in foods where it is added during processing. Products with often the highest sodium content include breads, pizza, processed meats, soup, chips, cheese, canned goods, frozen foods, and seasoning blends. The amount of sodium present in a product is found on the nutrition facts label. The number provided on the label is based off of the serving size for the product. 

Some ways to reduce sodium intake include comparing different brands and selecting the option with the lower sodium content per serving, looking for reduced or low-sodium on the food label, flavoring food with herbs and spices instead of salt, utilize salt-substitutes, and rinsing canned goods with water prior to cooking.  It is also important to incorporate foods that contain potassium into your diet, as potassium helps to relax blood vessels. Potassium is mainly found in fruits and vegetables such as avocados, potatoes, leafy greens, tomatoes, melons, bananas, and citrus fruits. Potassium is also found in certain salt-substitute brands, such as Mrs. Dash. Too much potassium can be harmful in individuals with kidney disease, so talk to your doctor about the right amount of potassium for you. 

In general, the best way to reduce blood pressure is to incorporate fruits, vegetables, fat-free or low-fat milk and dairy products, whole grains, lean protein, and beans and legumes on a daily basis. 

For more information, check out the American Heart Association website

-Brooke Sawicki, MS, RD, LDN is a registered dietitian with the University of Maryland Baltimore Washington Medical center. She can be reached at 410-553-8146. Brooke, along with cardiologist Dr. Vasundhara Muthu will offer a free lecture to the community on congestive heart failure on Wednesday, October e16 at 6:30 p.m. at UM BWMC To register, please call 410-787-4367.