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Myth or Fact: Salt Increases Blood Pressure

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The human body needs sodium, found in table salt, on a daily basis to function properly. However, getting too much salt in your diet over time can be problematic for your health. To help reduce your risk for developing high blood pressure and heart disease, limiting dietary sodium is a good idea.

Sodium in Salt

Table salt is about 40 percent sodium, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). The AHA notes that 1/4 teaspoon of table salt equals 575 milligrams of sodium. Sodium is what you have to worry about when trying to maintain healthy blood pressure. Therefore, adding table salt to foods, especially those that already contain sodium in them, can cause you to exceed recommended sodium intake levels.

How Much is Too Much?

The American Heart Association suggests limiting sodium consumption to 1,500 milligrams daily to reduce your risk of developing high blood pressure and heart disease. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 take a slightly different approach, providing sodium recommendations of less than 2,300 milligrams daily -- but just 1,500 milligrams per day if you're over age 50, African American, or already have high blood pressure, chronic kidney disease or diabetes.

High-Sodium Foods

The salt shaker isn't the only source of sodium in your diet. Processed, packaged, canned, and restaurant foods are often culprits as well. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration reports that over 40 percent of sodium in Americans' diets comes from foods like breads, rolls, cold cut meats, pizza, poultry, sandwiches, soups, hot dogs, hamburgers, cheese, pasta dishes, meat loaf, chili, beef stew and snack foods -- like chips, pretzels, crackers and popcorn.

Bottom Line

To reduce your risk for developing high blood pressure and heart disease, limit sodium-rich foods, avoid using table salt when possible, and pay attention to the sodium content listed on food labels. Getting too much sodium, a mineral abundant in table salt, in your diet over time does increase your risk for high blood pressure.


An experienced health, nutrition and fitness writer, Erin Coleman is a registered and licensed dietitian and holds a dietetics degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She also has worked as a clinical dietitian and health educator in outpatient settings. Erin's work is published on popular health websites, such as and

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