It’s National Heart Month and you’ve probably heard a lot about eating heart healthy and cutting salt, or sodium, from your diet. Our health expert, Nurse Rose Melendez, RN, explains why consuming too much sodium is can harm  your heart and how to cut down your salt intake. Melendez is the head of the Emergency Department and Nursing Administration at Adventist HealthCare Washington Adventist Hospital

What exactly is sodium and why is it so bad for you?

Nurse Rose: Sodium isn’t always bad for you. In fact, Sodium is a necessary electrolyte that keeps the fluids in our bodies balanced. However, consuming too much sodium throws off the fluid balance, and most of us eat too much sodium without even knowing it.

This is what causes high blood pressure and puts stress on your heart.

How does blood pressure affect our heart health?

Nurse Rose: Over time, high blood pressure can

  • Stretch or weaken the blood vessels,
  • Cause heart attacks, and
  • Increase the likelihood of plaque buildup in your arteries.

How much salt or sodium should we eat?

Nurse Rose: Federal regulators, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, recommend that individuals consume no more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day. Unfortunately, the average American eats about 3,400 mg per day. Sodium is often hidden in packaged or processed foods, particularly snacks like crackers, chips and baked goods.

Cut sodium in your diet with these tips.

  • Read nutrition labels
  • Choose foods with 150 mg of sodium or less
  • Limit intake of packaged or processed goods
  • Rinse canned vegetables
  • Limit the use of the salt shaker
  • Add flavor to dishes with fresh herbs and spices

This February, take Adventist HealthCare’s free and easy heart risk assessment and learn your heart age and your risk for heart disease. By completing the free online health risk assessment, you have a chance to win an escape to National Harbor!

Find more tips from Nurse Rose here: