Do you feel like you eat too much salty food? You’re not alone. Eighty-nine percent of American adults exceed the daily recommendation for sodium intake. With diets heavy on processed foods and restaurant meals, it can be easy to overdo it. But making a conscious effort to reduce your sodium consumption is worth it. Research shows that having too much sodium in your system leads to high blood pressure and cardiovascular ailments. The good news is when it comes to lowering your sodium levels – just a little can go a long way. To help you get started, here is a breakdown of a few key terms.

Sodium Chloride

Sodium chloride is the scientific name for table salt. Both chloride and sodium are essential nutrients, meaning you need a certain amount of each to survive. According to the USDA, the recommended daily value for sodium is 2,300 milligrams (about one teaspoon of salt). Unfortunately, most people go way over the limit, taking in more than 3,400 milligrams per day.

There are several ways to avoid excessive sodium consumption. First, make sure you read the nutritional labels on the food you eat. They tell you how many milligrams of sodium are in a given item and what percentage that is of your daily value. You can also use herbs and spices rather than salt to season your food. Overall, avoid savory foods like pizza and cured meats, opting instead for fruits and green veggies. If you lower your sodium intake little by little, your taste buds may not even notice the difference.

Blood Pressure

The reason it is so important to watch your sodium levels is to maintain healthy blood pressure. But what is blood pressure? Simply put, it is a measurement of the blood flow in your circulatory system. Optimal blood pressure lets your blood move properly through your body. We monitor blood pressure because it is indicative of cardiovascular well-being. Too much sodium can raise your blood pressure, causing hypertension. You can also improve your blood pressure by exercising and taking medication, if appropriate. Buy a home blood pressure monitor to keep track on your own. If you notice any abrupt changes, talk to your doctor.

Hypertension

Hypertension is the medical term for especially high blood pressure. For many people, the main cause is excessive sodium. Too much sodium can be hard on the kidneys. These organs regulate sodium and control your body’s fluid balance. The more sodium you digest, the more water is needed to dilute it. This increases pressure on your blood vessels as they pull water in, causing strain on both the vessels and your heart. Hypertension is dangerous because it increases your risk of heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, and heart disease. Luckily, reducing sodium intake has been proven to be especially effective for improving health outcomes in patients with hypertension.