The sodium factor: the salty truth

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Nine out of 10 of us consume too much sodium every day. The sneaky substance can put you at risk for heart disease, high blood pressure and other health problems. But some of the foods that contain the most sodium are those you would least expect.

Cesar Calvet, 69, walks every day. He's working to improve his health with exercise and diet.

"The thing that I haven't had, which I love, a cheeseburger, in a long time especially because of the bread," Calvet told ABC30.

But Calvet's biggest worry isn't carbs, it's salt.

"You could have strokes," Rajesh Shah, MD, interventional cardiologist and director of the Acute Coronary Syndrome Program at Florida Hospital, told ABC30. "You could have visual problems, kidney problems."

Shah says most of us eat twice the daily recommended amount of sodium, which is 1,500 milligrams.

"In many packaged and processed foods there's already about 75 percent of your daily requirement," he said.

The American Heart Association has a list of the "Salty Six," which includes Calvet's favorite: bread. It also lists sandwiches, pizza, cold cuts, poultry and soup. Just one serving of these foods can contain as much as half of your daily sodium intake.

Shah's top tip for his patients who are trying to slash salt and get healthy?

"I actually tell them to eat less, and then substitute fruits and vegetables for the portions they have taken off," he said.

Other options: look for sodium substitutes, like potassium chloride. Potassium can help lower blood pressure. Use citrus to season. A squeeze of lemon or lime brings out flavor. And skip the salt shaker.

"At our house, the salt shaker never comes out of the closet," Calvet said.

One small step that is moving Calvet closer to better health.

Experts say salt is an acquired taste that can be unlearned, but it takes about six to eight weeks to get used to eating food with less sodium.

For more information, contact:

Rajesh A. Shah, MD
Orlando Cardiac and Vascular Specialists

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