NDSU Extension - Mercer County


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February is American Heart Month

heart disease, stroke, sodium

Submitted by Dena Kemmet, Extension Agent/Family and Consumer Sciences

Heart disease and stroke are an epidemic in the United States today. Many of the people who are at high risk for heart attack or stroke don't know it. The good news is that many of the major risk factors for these conditions can be prevented and controlled. Talking to your health care professional about your heart health and getting your blood pressure and cholesterol checked are important first steps to reduce your risk. Many other lifestyle choices—including eating healthy, exercising regularly, and following your health care professional's instructions about your medications—can all help protect your heart and brain health.

Take care of your heart by going easy on the salt! Too much sodium can play a role in raising our blood pressure.

Adults and children should reduce the amount of sodium in their diets to 2,300 milligrams of sodium daily (a total of 1 teaspoon of salt from all sources).

People over age 51, African Americans and those with high blood pressure, diabetes or kidney disease should reduce their sodium intake to 1,500 milligrams per day.

10 Tips to Trim Sodium

  1. Think fresh. Eat highly processed foods less often and in smaller portions. Ready-to-eat foods such as canned chili and soups often are high in sodium.

  2. Enjoy home-prepared foods more often. Preparing your foods lets you limit the amount of salt that you add.

  3. Fill up on veggies and fruits. Enjoy a vegetable or fruit at every meal. They are naturally very low in sodium.

  4. Choose dairy and protein foods that are lower in sodium. Get your calcium from low-fat milk and yogurt more often than cheese. Choose fresh beef, pork, poultry and seafood more often than sausage, bacon and luncheon meats.

  5. Adjust your taste buds. Cut back on salt little by little. Your taste for salt will lessen as time passes.

  6. Skip the salt. Use spices, herbs, garlic, vinegar or lemon juice to season foods. Try black or red pepper, basil, curry, ginger or rosemary.

  7. Read the label. Compare the amount of sodium listed on Nutrition Facts labels. Look for foods labeled “low sodium,” “reduced sodium” or “no salt added.”

  8. Ask for low-sodium foods when you eat out. Some restaurants will prepare lower-sodium foods at your request. Some will serve sauces and salad dressings on the side, so you use less.

  9. Pay attention to condiments. Choose lower-sodium ketchup and soy sauce when possible. Have a carrot stick instead of a pickle for a crunchy side dish.

10.  Boost your potassium intake. Potassium may help lower your blood pressure. Potassium-rich foods include potatoes, tomato juice and sauce (choose lower-sodium versions), sweet potatoes, beans (white, lima, kidney), bananas, yogurt, orange juice and milk.

Source: Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist, NDSU Extension Service

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