If you have a high-sodium diet, you are not alone. About 98 percent of Americans consume more than double the recommended amount of sodium, according to the American Heart Association. Sodium is an essential mineral, however, too much of it increases the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. If the health consequences of a high-sodium diet are worrying you, there are a few heart-healthy lifestyle changes that can make a difference.
Cut back on high-sodium food in your diet. Cook at home more often, as packaged and restaurant foods are often high in sodium. Replace the salt in your cooking with herbs and spices. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, processed foods such as baked goods, packaged food and fast food are responsible for 75 percent of sodium in the American diet.
Eat more potassium-rich foods. Potassium helps counteract the blood pressure-raising effect of sodium, says Rachel K. Johnson, Ph.D. Add potassium-dense vegetables and fruits such as mushrooms, lima beans, bananas, peas and sweet potatoes to your meals. The American Heart Association recommends the average adult consume 4,700 milligrams of potassium daily.
Drink plenty of water to flush out your system. Consuming more sodium than your body needs causes your body to retain water, which may cause bloating. Aim to drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day to help dilute the sodium in your body. Drink more water on the days that you’re very physically active.
Perform moderate to intense cardiovascular exercise regularly. Your body naturally excretes sodium through urine, but if you have too much in your system, exercise can help you get rid of more salt through sweat. Cardio exercises such as jogging increase your heart rate and body temperature, and your body tries to cool itself down by producing sweat. According to Rice University, sweating can help purge as much as 3.4 grams of salt per liter.
Jason Eaton has been a writer since 2010, and has contributed to several magazines and clinical journals. He has worked as a pediatric dietitian and clinical researcher in the United Kingdom. Eaton holds a Bachelor of Science in nutrition and dietetics, as well as a Master of Science in human nutrition.