Most Americans consume too much salt, contributing to the risk of heart disease and stroke, reports the September issue of Mayo Clinic Women's HealthSource.

"Many people probably are aware that too much sodium can cause or aggravate hypertension, a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke," says Gary Schwartz, M.D., a Mayo Clinic hypertension specialist. "They may be less aware that a high sodium intake can increase the risk of stroke even without an increase in blood pressure."

High sodium intake also can increase the risk of osteoporosis and kidney stones. Studies have shown a relationship between a high-salt diet and stomach cancer.

How much salt is too much? A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a maximum of 1,500 milligrams (mg) daily for most Americans. That recommendation has been in place since 2005 for people with high blood pressure or at risk of high blood pressure. However, it's new -- and lower -- for most Americans. The previous guideline was 2,300 mg daily, the equivalent of about a teaspoon of salt.

Dr. Schwartz says the average American is eating at least two to three times the recommended daily amount of sodium, and most don't realize it. That's because most sodium isn't coming from the kitchen salt shaker. About 80 percent of consumed salt comes from foods that are processed, canned or purchased in restaurants.

The best way to reduce sodium intake is to eat more fresh foods and less canned and processed foods. Other sodium-reducing tips include:

-- Cut back on eating in restaurants, especially fast-food restaurants.

-- Use unsalted spices in cooking, for example, garlic powder instead of garlic salt.

-- Rinse canned vegetables to remove sodium.

-- Check grocery labels for sodium content and opt for those products with low sodium.

Mayo Clinic Women's HealthSource is published monthly to help women enjoy healthier, more productive lives. Revenue from subscriptions is used to support medical research at Mayo Clinic.

Source: Mayo Clinic

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