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Do This One Thing to Lower Your Risk of Heart Disease

| Date Posted: 1/30/2023

If you knew there was one thing under your control that could have a big impact on your heart health, would you do it?


According to a recent study out of Tulane University, there is. The results of the study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, show that reducing the amount of salt you consume could make a difference in lowering the risk of heart disease and heart failure.


Jeniffer Peeples, B.S., RDN, LDN, a dietitian with FirstHealth Cardiac Rehab, said about 70% of salt intake in most people’s diets comes from restaurants, fast food, pre-packaged and processed foods.


“Reducing how much you eat out or eat fast food can make a big difference,” Peeples said. “If you’re trying to reduce salt intake, cook more at home, and when you go out split a meal or take half of your plate home to eat later. It’s also important to limit how much you eat high-salt foods like pizza, canned soups, deli meats, salad dressings, bread, rolls and sauces.”


Another important lifestyle change, Peeples said, comes at the grocery store.


“Read those labels. Find canned goods that have no salt added, and once you are home, follow through by eating the proper serving sizes,” she said. “This is especially important for chips, pretzels and crackers.”


Heart disease risk was shown to drop even more in people who follow the DASH diet in addition to lowering their salt intake at the table. DASH, which refers to the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, is a diet that has already been shown to improve heart health.


It helps lower blood pressure by encouraging consumption of foods without a lot of salt, sugar or saturated fat. Instead, it promotes eating vegetables, fruit, whole grains, nuts, legumes, low-fat dairy and lean protein. Too much sodium can contribute to high blood pressure, which is one of the leading causes of heart attacks and strokes. This study, as well as other recent research, suggests that the amount of salt you add to your food at the table is a good predictor of how much sodium you consume overall.


If you need more incentive to skip the salt shaker, consider this. The Tulane University study found that people who always add extra salt to their food had a 28% higher risk of dying prematurely from any cause, not just heart disease, compared to people who rarely or never add salt to their food. Ready to add less salt to your food?


Try these tips:


  • Taste food first. Don’t automatically add salt. You’ll often find that you don’t need any additional salt to make food taste good.
  • Cook with more herbs and spices. This enhances the flavor of food so extra salt is not needed.
  • Give your palate time to adjust. Your taste buds will soon get used to enjoying food with less salt.
  • Eat more whole foods. Many processed foods contain a lot of salt, even if you don’t taste it. Most unprocessed whole foods are low in salt. If you eat processed foods, read labels and choose items with a lower sodium content.


To learn more about FirstHealth’s heart services, visit our website.

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