Sodium, or salt, enhances the taste of all foods, from salty to sweet. But too much sodium can have a detrimental effect on your health. Has your doctor told you to lower your sodium intake? How much is too much?
Symptoms of too much sodium in your diet
If you experience any of these symptoms, it may be the result of consuming too much sodium:
- You often feel bloated.  You often get headaches.
- You feel constantly thirsty.
- You keep water.
Some of these symptoms are precursors to a more dangerous health condition.
High Blood Pressure and Sodium
While the body requires sodium, most people eat much more than is needed. Salt is found in almost all types of foods, so even if you avoid the salt shaker, you will still consume sodium. Sodium makes up about 40 percent of table salt, and it is well established by scientific evidence that sodium raises blood pressure (high blood pressure).
When you consume too much sodium, your body will stick to water and try to dilute it. The water enters the bloodstream, increases the volume of the blood vessels, which causes the heart to pump harder to move the blood in the system, which raises blood pressure and the risk of stroke, heart attack or heart failure.
Am I eating too much sodium?
Although not all researchers agree on the amount of sodium that is safe for the body, they generally agree that keeping your sodium intake at 2300 mg or less per day is advisable. Most people consume in the range of 3600 mg of sodium per day and need to reduce their consumption by a third. Each serving of food should have less than 100 mg of sodium. Read the packaging to find out how much sodium is in the food you buy.
How much sodium is in my food?
About 70 percent of the sodium you consume is found in ready-made foods or restaurant items. Watch out for these types of foods and avoid them as much as possible:
- Cold cuts: Delicatessen has large amounts of salt, up to 1,040 mg in one serving. If you need to cut back on sodium, avoid eating ready-made meat.
- Pizza: It's hard to resist pizza, but if you need to reduce your sodium intake, pizza should not be on your list. A slice can have up to 760 mg of sodium, and who can only eat one?
- Bread : Bread has a surprising amount of sodium, even if you can not taste it. Limit your consumption of breads, rolls, bagels, muffins or croissants to reduce the sodium in your diet.
- Soups: Nothing suits cold weather more than a hot bowl of soup, but beware! Commercial canned soups have high levels of sodium, and so do restaurant soups. Buy low-sodium versions and avoid restaurant soups if you are on a low-sodium diet. That diet-friendly chicken breasts can be heavily loaded with sodium and fried chicken or nuggets should be avoided. Read the label when buying chicken to find out the sodium content.
- French fries, chips and snacks : French fries, chips and other snack foods have high sodium levels. To lower your consumption, you may need to sacrifice your craving for crunchy, salty candies and move on to a healthier alternative. Sodium-free alternatives are available, so read your labels!
Your health insurance and heart health
You must do everything you can to keep your heart healthy. If you think you may be consuming too much sodium and experiencing symptoms, it's time to cut back. Your doctor may have recommended that your blood pressure be high. Changing your eating habits can lower your blood pressure and help you avoid the need for blood pressure medication.
Your health insurance includes an annual physical, and you should take advantage of it. The early detection of a heart health risk can allow you to change your habits and live a longer and healthier life. If you need help with health insurance or have questions about your coverage, our helpful local agents can help you.