Harvard Health Letter

Here's a trio of suggestions for enjoying good health

Oversimplification is something to be leery of, maybe especially when it comes to health and medicine. Treatments have drawbacks, pills have side effects, and promises of prevention fall short and don't apply to everyone. But it's also possible to get bogged down in the details of study findings. So we thought we'd cut through the clutter and pick out three concrete things that you can do for your health. No, you won't find any guarantees here, but improving your odds is worth the effort.

1. Keep a lookout for sodium

Some people may be more sensitive to sodium than others, but harmful health effects are the rule, not the exception. Dozens of studies have shown an association between high sodium intake and high blood pressure. Others have linked sodium to heart disease and stroke.

Americans should limit their daily sodium intake to 2,300 milligrams (mg), according to the dietary guidelines. Results from the federal government's National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) show that the vast majority (88% in the survey) exceed that limit. And many Americans are supposed to be limiting their sodium intake to just 1,500 mg a day, including people ages 51 and older, African Americans, and people who have high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease. According to the NHANES survey, virtually everyone in those groups — 98.5%, to be exact — exceeds the 1,500-mg mark. Few other dietary guidelines are as frequently ignored as those for sodium intake.

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