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Hidden salt can wreck heart health

A new challenge goes after the Salty Six.

Whether at the dinner table with your family or out to dinner in a restaurant, do not pass the salt. On average, Americans’ daily intake of salt is more than twice the recommended amount, according to the American Heart Association.

Kelli Dixon, executive director of The Miami Valley Division of the American Heart Association, said that the recommend daily intake of sodium is 1,500 mg, and Americans’ daily intake is closer to 3,400 mg. “Americans are eating too much salt, and they are not aware of hidden areas of salt,” Dixon said. “Your intake of salt in your diet can mean the difference between having high blood pressure and not having high blood pressure.”

In addition to raising blood pressure, Dixon said that salt increases water retention and makes organs work harder.

To bring awareness, the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association created the Sodium Swap Challenge, an initiative to encourage Americans to reduce their sodium intake in 21 days.

With the initiative, the American Heart Association has identified the Salty Six: a list of popular foods that can add high levels of sodium to a diet. These foods include: breads and rolls; cold cuts and cured meats; pizza; poultry; soup; and sandwiches.

In week 1, the Sodium Swap Challenge encourages participants to look for lower sodium options of breads, rolls, cold cuts and cured meats and to record daily sodium intake. In week 2, focus on pizza and poultry by making some changes to these favorites by adding more veggies to pizza slices, limit toppings such as cheese and meats, and opt for fresh poultry instead of processed, canned or fried. In week 3, focus on soups and sandwiches, by reading labels closely. Look for low sodium cans of soup, meats, cheeses and condiments and build a better sandwich by adding veggies.

The American Heart Association recommends foods with the American Heart Association’s Heart-Check mark because the Heart-Check Food Certification Program certifies them to meet the standard for heart-healthy foods.

“Read your food labels, especially the ingredients, which are listed in descending order from greatest to least,” said Christine O’Connor, a registered dietitian at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. “If you see sodium in the first couple of ingredients, it will be a high sodium food. There are also other names like monosodium glutamate, sodium citrate, or sodium alginate, to name a few.”

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