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Cutting Down on Salt Means Lowering ND Stroke Risks

March 28, 2012

BISMARCK, N.D. - The American Heart Association is urging North Dakotans to hold the salt, as part of World Salt Awareness Week.

Most people consume far too much sodium, an often-hidden enemy of cardiovascular health, according to registered dietitian Carrie McLeod, the association's state advocacy chairwoman.

"Salt is oftentimes the cause of high blood pressure, which is a leading risk for stroke and heart disease."

Some people love to shake on the salt, but McLeod says even those who don't can end up getting too much because most of the sodium in our diets comes from restaurant or processed foods.

"Oftentimes people will say, 'I don't add salt at the table,' or 'I don't add a lot of salt in my cooking,' but they're already getting an awful lot of salt from the prepared foods that they're purchasing, that they don't always think about as part of the total amount that they get into the diet."

To reduce salt intake, McLeod recommends buying fresh foods and those which are produced with lower sodium, as well as using herbs and other spices in cooking instead of salt. Eating foods high in potassium also helps counter the impact of sodium on blood pressure, she says.

"Potatoes, lima beans, dried apricots - of course, bananas are great; raisins are very high. Tomatoes are great for potassium; yogurt, winter squash - lots of really good, healthy foods that can counteract all that sodium."

About one in three Americans will develop high blood pressure, McLeod says. The average person consumes more than 3,400 milligrams of sodium per day, she says - roughly 1 1/2 teaspoons and more than double the American Heart Association's recommended limit of 1,500 milligrams per day.

More information on reducing salt intake, including recipes and tips for dining out, is online at heart.org/sodium.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - ND