Avera Medical Minute: Monitoring Sodium intake for a healthier diet

Published: Jun. 5, 2023 at 10:10 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - To function properly your body needs the right foods and proper nutrition. One of those key elements is sodium, but consuming too much can lead to medical problems, especially to your heart.

“Too much sodium in a person’s diet will actually increase your blood pressure and it also can increase your risk for heart attack and stroke as well,” said Kayley Gebhart, a registered dietitian at the Avera Heart Hospital.

“You retain more fluid with too much sodium and it becomes a hydraulic thing. Just like when you put too much pressure in your garden hose, it’s going to stretch and tear. So it actually triggers the atherosclerosis, the high blood pressure and accelerates it,” said Dr. Ray Allen, an interventional cardiologist with the North Central Heart Institute, a division of the Avera Heart Hospital.

A healthy heart is a key factor to a healthy body, so there’s added importance to reading the label and knowing what’s fueling you.

“Trying to look at a sodium conscience diet or cutting back on the sodium starts with cutting back on that salt shaker. Trying to choose fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables instead of the canned ones. Cutting back on the processed meats and cured meats and really just watching those processed foods as a whole is really a great place to start,” said Gebhart.

It’s not easy, because salt tastes good and that flavor informs our choices.  Snacks like potato chips and crackers are easier to identify, but the sneakiest way that sodium gets in is usually from the things we drink.

“Any sports drinks or electrolyte beverages like Propel, Gatorade, anything along those lines will usually have quite a bit of added sugar and added sodium as well. So choosing water is the best fluid that we can be drinking,” said Gebhart.

The message doesn’t have to be “salt and sodium are bad,” but being aware can lead you to making healthier choices. So make sure to read the label and take all things, salt included, in moderation

“If we really understood what salt does to our bodies and how high of a risk it is for heart disease and stroke and increases our blood pressure, it really does makes a big impact on our health,” said Gebhart.

Another tip for helping limit sodium is by picking your foods from the perimeters of the grocery story where the fresh produce and meats are located. Every grocery store is different, but the center aisles are typically lined with foods that are packed with high sodium and preservatives. For more information go to Avera.org/MedicalMinute