You can focus on preventing heart disease and all cardiovascular diseases at any age. You’re never too young— or too old — to take care of your heart.
This means making smart choices now, like watching your sodium, that will pay off the rest of your life.
In honor of Men’s Health Month, let’s talk about when – and what you can do – to watch for sodium.
Sodium at any age: Adulthood
Did you know that 90 percent of all American adults are expected to develop high blood pressure in their lifetime? What you eat today can have a real impact on your health. Even if you don’t have high blood pressure, eating less sodium can help blunt the rise in blood pressure that occurs with age.
When there’s extra sodium in your bloodstream, it pulls water into your blood vessels, increasing the total volume of blood inside. With more blood flowing through, blood pressure increases. It’s like turning up the water supply to a garden hose — the pressure in the hose increases as more water is blasted through it.
Over time, high blood pressure may overstretch or injure the blood vessel walls and speed the build-up of gunky plaque that can block blood flow. The added pressure also tires out the heart by forcing it to work harder to pump blood through the body.
Strong evidence has linked excess sodium intake to the development of elevated blood pressure, which increases the risk of heart attacks, stroke, and kidney disease. Besides high blood pressure, too much sodium has also been linked to osteoporosis, kidney stones, asthma, and stomach cancer.
People of all ages need to know about and watch how much sodium they eat. AHA’s Salty Six infographic shows the top six sodium sources in the U.S. diet. These include the following foods, some of which don’t necessarily taste salty or have high amounts of sodium (compared to other foods), but because we eat them often the sodium in them adds up.
The Salty Six for Adults
- breads and rolls
- cold cuts and cured meats
Sodium at any age: Childhood
It’s important for parents to know that in the U.S., more than 9 out of 10 kids (age 4-18 years) old get too much sodium. Too much sodium can start increasing a child’s risk of high blood pressure when they are as young as one year old. Want to learn more about sodium and kids? Check out these myths and facts about sodium for kids.
According to national data about Americans’ eating habits, these foods are the leading contributors to the kids eat.
The Salty Six for Kids
- Bread and rolls
- Cold cuts and cured meats
- Savory snacks (such as chips and pretzels)
- Sandwiches (including burgers)
- Check out our infographic on the salty six for kids to learn more.
What you can do to watch for sodium?
Want heart-healthy tips for heart health at any age? Learn recommendations for taking care of your heart from your 20’s to your 60’s (and beyond!).
Keeping sodium in check is just one part of the overall heart-healthy eating pattern the American Heart Association recommends. This pattern emphasizes fruits, vegetables and whole grains; includes low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish and nuts; and limits red meat, sweets and sugar-sweetened beverages.
4 Strategies to watch for sodium:
- Compare Labels. Different brands and restaurant versions of the same foods may have different sodium levels. Some foods come in versions with less sodium, too. Compare labels and choose the product with the lowest amount of sodium you can find in your store.
- Order Right. Specify how you want your food prepared. Ask for your dish to be made without extra salt.
- Cook with onions, garlic, herbs, spices, citrus juices and vinegars in place of some or all of the salt to add flavor to foods. Our recipes and tips can help!
- Take Action. Tell food companies you want healthier options, and pledge to reduce the sodium you eat.