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Here’s how one small change to your diet can help your heart.

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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! It turns out that by just skipping the salt shaker at the table, you may lower your risk of heart disease.

The results of the study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, showed that regardless of any other factors, such as lifestyle habits or whether you have pre-existing health conditions, this one action could make a difference in your risk of heart disease and heart failure.

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.

“Heart disease is such prevalent and serious problem that we need to do all that we can to lower the risk for developing this disease. Taking small steps, like this, in your daily routine can make a big impact on your overall health.”

-Ashley D. Bordelon, MD, Internal Medicine

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 percent 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.

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Date Last Reviewed: December 13, 2022

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Jane Schwartz, RDN, CLT

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