Lower Blood Pressure by Reducing Sodium Intake

by Laura Stepp RD, LD, CDE at LMC

February is heart month. As we think about the ways we are going to show our loved ones how much we care about them, one of those ways may be to pay closer attention to how much excess sodium we might be consuming.

shutterstock_43584655During the last two years, the recommendations for sodium intake have been reviewed with new guidelines and new food labels being proposed. According to an article in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, reducing sodium intake by 400mg/day in those with uncontrolled hypertension (blood pressure of 140/90) could save $2.3 million in medical costs annually.

The sodium recommendations for lowering blood pressure include:
•reducing daily intake to less than 2300mg/day
•Reducing daily intake to 1500mg/day for those at high risk for heart disease or stroke (51 yrs or older, African American, already diagnosed with high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease) to

To put the recommendations into perspective: 2300mg/day = 1 level teaspoon and 1500mg/day = approx 2/3 teaspoon.

The final recommendations to help lower blood pressure is to adopt a plant based diet such as the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), try to get to and maintain a healthy weight, and to exercise daily.

Reducing daily sodium intake may be easier than it first appears. According to research, the majority of our excess sodium intake comes from packaged foods and eating out at restaurants. Understanding how to read a food label can help everyone to choose lower sodium products. Below is an example of how food labels look now and the proposed new food labels.

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First, pay attention the serving size – everything on the label pertains only to the suggested serving size. Then, look at the sodium. To be sure the food is truly a low sodium product, each serving should be 140mg or less. Unfortunately, we can’t always find a low sodium version of the food we want. If that’s the case, pair a higher sodium food with low sodium foods to keep your sodium intake under control. When working with canned goods, simply drain and rinse the canned goods with fresh water to help lower and remove some of the excess sodium.

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