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Did you know that the American Heart Association has lowered its recommended daily sodium intake from 2,000 mg to 1,500 mg?

It’s because too many of us overuse salt and suffer consequences; 70 million Americans have hypertension.

“Sodium attracts and holds water, and too much of it causes your blood volume to increase, which makes your heart work harder,” says Dr. Matthew DeVane, John Muir Health’s wellness co-director. Depending on your sensitivity, extra sodium can lead to high blood pressure, which in turn can lead to heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and congestive heart failure. To break the cycle, try these sodium-reducing strategies:

  • Eat fewer processed foods and more fresh ones. About 77 percent of the sodium in the average U.S. diet comes from processed and prepared foods, experts say. If you do buy processed foods, choose low-sodium products and rinse canned foods to remove some of the sodium.
  • When you can, nix salt in recipes. Forgoing salt may affect baked goods, but try skipping it in other dishes.
  • Cut down on sodium-heavy condiments (soy sauce, ketchup, mustard, some salad dressings).
  • Opt for herbs, spices and other flavorings to enhance taste.
  • Be smart about salt substitutes. To achieve that familiar salty flavor, you may use too much of them.
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