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Should Americans Consume Less Sodium?

By National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion | Sep 10, 2014
Should Americans Consume Less Sodium? image

Most Americans Should Consume Less Sodium.

Most of the sodium we consume is in the form of salt, and the vast majority of sodium we consume is in processed and restaurant foods. Your body needs a small amount of sodium to work properly, but too much sodium is bad for your health. Excess sodium can increase your blood pressure and your risk for a heart disease and stroke. Together, heart disease and stroke kill more Americans each year than any other cause.

Reducing Sodium in Children's Diets

Nearly 9 in 10 US children eat more sodium than recommended, and about 1 in 6 children has raised blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Lowering sodium in children's diets today can help prevent heart disease tomorrow. Small changes make a big impact on your child's daily sodium intake. Learn more in the current CDC Vital Signs.

Sources of Sodium

Americans get most of their daily sodium—more than 75%—from processed and restaurant foods. What is processed food?

Sodium is already in processed and restaurant foods when you purchase them, which makes it difficult to reduce daily sodium intake on your own. Although it is wise to limit your use of added table salt while cooking and at the table, only a small amount of the sodium we consume each day comes from the salt shaker.

Dietary Guidelines for Sodium and Potassium

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010 recommend that everyone age 2 and up should consume less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium each day. Some groups of people should further limit sodium intake to 1,500 mg per day, including:

  • Adults age 51 or older.
  • All African Americans.
  • Anyone who has high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease.

Those groups add up to about half of the U.S. population and the majority of adults.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans also recommend meeting the potassium recommendation (4,700 mg per day). Higher potassium intake can help lower blood pressure. Foods that are high in potassium and low in sodium include bananas, potatoes, yogurt, and dry beans, among others. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Sodium and Potassium fact sheet has more information about the role of potassium in a healthy diet and a list of foods rich in potassium.

Nearly everyone benefits from lower sodium intake. Learn more about sodium in your diet in Where's the Sodium?, a February 2012 report from CDC Vital Signs.
Balancing Act: Sodium and Potassium

Did you know that sodium and potassium both affect blood pressure? In general, people who reduce sodium, who increase potassium, or who do both benefit from having lower blood pressure and reducing their risk for other serious health problems. Eating enough potassium each day can help balance out some of the harmful effects that high sodium intake can have on blood pressure. But lowering sodium intake is key to this balance.


References

- Kochanek KD, Xu JQ, Murphy SL, Miniño AM, Kung HC. Deaths: final data for 2009. Nat Vital Stat Rep. 2011;60(3).
- Mattes RD, Donnelly D. Relative contributions of dietary sodium sources. J Am Coll Nutr. 1991;10:383–93.