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Most Americans Consume Too Much Sodium

A salt filled hot dog, pickle, and potato chips.

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. Too much sodium is bad for your health. It can increase your blood pressure and your risk for a heart attack and stroke. Heart disease and stroke are the first and fourth leading causes of death in both men and women in the U.S. each year.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA), 2010 recommend reducing sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) per day. The DGA’s also recommend you should further reduce sodium to 1,500 milligrams (mg) per day if:

  • You are 51 years of age or older.
  • You are African American.
  • You have high blood pressure.
  • You have diabetes.
  • You have chronic kidney disease.

The 1,500 mg recommendation applies to about half of the U.S. population overall and the majority of adults. Nearly everyone benefits from reduced sodium consumption. Eating less sodium can help prevent, or control, high blood pressure.

Most of the sodium we eat comes from packaged, processed, store-bought, and restaurants foods. Only a small amount comes from salt added during cooking and from being added at the table, and most Americans have already exceeded their daily limit of sodium before cooking or adding salt at the table.

Most sodium comes from processed and restaurant foods. The pie chart shows Processed and Restaurant Foods portion at 77%; Naturally Occurring, 12%; While eating, 6%; and Home Cooking, 5%.

Source: Mattes, RD, Donnelly, D. Relative contributions of dietary sodium sources. Journal of the American College of Nutrition 1991;10(4):383–393.

What You Can Do

To reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke—

  • Follow the DASH eating plan (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) that is LOW in sodium, cholesterol, saturated and total fat, and HIGH in fruits and vegetables, fiber, potassium, and low-fat dairy products.
  • Know your recommended limits for daily sodium intake.
  • Read the nutrition label of the foods you purchase.
  • Ask for foods with no or low salt at restaurants.
  • Make other lifestyle changes, like getting more physical activity.

CDC Resources

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