Cutting down on salt may help lower your blood pressure. And most Americans need to cut back, because they get more sodium than they should.
The American Heart Association recommends getting less than 2,500 milligrams (mg) of sodium each day, unless you have high blood pressure or if you are at risk (if you already have hypertension, have diabetes or kidney disease or are African American). That's less than a teaspoon from all your meals and snacks.
Start with these tips:
Break the habit of...
The answer is yes. Your lifestyle does matter -- a lot.
Try DASH or TLC
Your doctor, or a dietitian, should have given you guidelines for your diet. They may have mentioned DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), which is about lowering blood pressure, or TLC (Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes), which focuses on lowering your cholesterol levels.
On either plan, you'll:
Eat more fruits, vegetables, whole-grain foods, poultry, fish, and low-fat dairy products.
Limit the amount of red meat, sweets, and sweetened beverages you eat.
Another cornerstone is cutting back on salt.
Lowering the amount of salt you eat can help lower the amount of fluid your body holds onto. This lowers your blood pressure and makes it easier for your heart to do its work. Getting no more than 1,500 milligrams per day (about a quarter-teaspoon of table salt) helps the most.
Try these tips:
Read labels. Look for "salt," "sodium," "sea salt," and "kosher salt."
Rinse salty canned food such as tuna before using it.
Substitute herbs and spices for sodium and salt when cooking.
Avoid instant or flavored side dishes, which usually have a lot of added sodium. Instead, try cooking plain rice, pasta, or grains without adding salt. You can add other flavorings or a bit of salt when you serve them.