How does sodium contribute to high blood pressure?

Consuming sodium causes your body to retain more water, which causes your heart to work harder than it would otherwise.  Sodium pulls water into blood vessels, which increases the total amount of blood inside blood vessels. Just like a garden hose’s pressure increases when more water flows through it, your arteries can become more strained as your blood volume increases. 

Being mindful of sodium intake is one way you can directly protect your heart and blood vessels, as well as reduce the risk of other complications from high blood pressure. 

How can adjust my sodium intake to control my blood pressure?

Sodium is an essential nutrient in our diets, but most people eat too much sodium without realizing it. Even foods that don’t taste very salty can have high amounts of sodium that can contribute to the water retention that increases blood pressure. 

The Salty 6

The American Heart Association defines a list called the  “Salty 6”,  which should be avoided when possible if you are worried about blood pressure.

  • Breads and rolls
  • Pizza
  • Cold cuts and cured meats
  • Sandwiches
  • Poultry
  • Soup

Additionally, most processed and/or pre-packaged foods contain a lot of sodium. Learning how to select low-sodium food is an important step to take in improving your health. 

Learn to read nutrition labels. Be mindful that many foods contain sodium, and some have extremely large amounts of sodium in a serving. Make a habit of picking the lowest-sodium variety of a food when you go shopping, or avoid high sodium foods altogether. 

The nutrition label of a can of Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup.

Tips to reduce sodium in your diet

  • Remove your salt shaker from your table and kitchen
  • Use herbs, spices, or other salt-free seasonings to flavor your food. You might even like the flavor better!
  • If you’re going to eat pre-packaged foods, choose unsalted or low-sodium varieties
  • checkRinse canned food before preparing it to rinse off excess sodium