From our Memorial Dietitians: Sodium and Stroke Risk

salt and blood pressure cuffHow would you like to decrease your risk of stroke more than twofold?

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends consuming only 1,500 milligrams of sodium each day, yet the average American consumes more than 4,000 mg of sodium per day. That is nearly 2 teaspoons of salt.

Researchers who published a study in the journal Stroke in April followed more than 2,600 participants over a 10-year period reviewing their health, including any hospitalizations, medication changes or changes in stroke risk factors, such as smoking. Only 12 percent of the participants were meeting the AHA recommendation of less than 1,500 mg of sodium per day.

The researchers compared the sodium intake of those who experienced stroke of any kind or a heart attack with those who did not. They found that compared to those meeting the AHA recommendation, those who were consuming more than 4,000 mg of sodium per day were more than two-and-a-half times more likely to have a stroke. In fact, every sodium intake of 500 mg per day over the recommended amount increased stroke risk by 17 percentage points. An intake of 2,500 mg per day meant a 34-percent increase in risk and 3,000 mg per day had a 51-percent increase risk, and so on.

What can you do about this it?

  • Take inventory, write down what you eat for two to three days and investigate the amount of sodium you consume.
  • Read the label on the packages of the food that you eat. Try to keep your intake to less than 1,500 mg each day by minimizing packaged, processed foods, canned vegetables, frozen entrees and restaurant foods.

An eating plan that includes low-sodium guidelines is called the DASH diet or Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension and can be found here.