Harvard Heart Letter

For heart health, less salt makes the most sense

Eating plenty of potassium-rich foods is also a good plan.

A high-sodium diet can boost blood pressure, which may raise the risk of having a heart attack, stroke, or other cardiovascular problem. But just how much sodium—a main component of salt—is safe? The average American consumes about 3,400 milligrams (mg) of sodium daily. Current federal guidelines recommend getting no more than 2,300 mg, while the American Heart Association (AHA) advises a total of just 1,500 mg per day.

Last August, a trio of articles in The New England Journal of Medicine rekindled the long-simmering debate. One, which sparked some media attention, concluded that our average sodium intake is okay for heart health, although too much or too little sodium is a problem. A second article agreed, but also suggested that a potassium-poor diet may be just as bad as one with excess sodium.

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