Americans Consume Too Much Sodium (Salt)

Sodium intake from processed and restaurant foods contributes to increased rates of high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke. Decreasing sodium intake to within recommended limits could prevent thousands of deaths annually.


In recognition of February as American Heart Month, CDC is highlighting data about sodium. Americans consume too much sodium, ninety percent of which we consume in the form of salt. High sodium consumption raises blood pressure, and high blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke, the nation’s first and third leading causes of death, respectively.

Research shows a dose-dependent relationship between consuming too much salt and elevated blood pressure. When salt intake is reduced, blood pressure begins decreasing for most people within a few days to weeks. Populations who consume diets low in salt do not experience the increase in blood pressure with age that is seen in most Western countries.

Sodium Consumption and the American Food Supply

We all need a small amount (e.g., between about180 mg and 500 mg per day) of sodium to keep our bodies working properly.

The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting sodium to less than 2,300 mg per day (about 1 tsp of table salt). The guidelines further recommend that specific populations (blacks, persons with high blood pressure, and middle-aged and older adults) consume no more than 1,500 mg per day (about 2/3 tsp of table salt).These specific populations account for nearly 70% of adults.

The average daily sodium intake for Americans age 2 years and older is 3,436 mg.

Since the 1970s, the amount of sodium in our food has increased, and we are eating more food each day than in the past.

The majority of the sodium consumed is from processed and restaurant foods; only a small portion is used in cooking or added at the table.

Even if a person does not have high blood pressure they may still benefit from reducing the amount of sodium in their diet because the lower one’s blood pressure in general, the lower the risk of heart disease and stroke. If manufacturers gradually reduced the amount of sodium in processed and prepared foods, the major sources of sodium in the food supply, public consumption of sodium could be reduced to safer levels with little or no individual behavior changes needed on the part of the consumer. Sodium intake from processed and restaurant foods contributes to high rates of high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke. Because nearly 400,000 deaths each year are attributed to high blood pressure, decreasing sodium intake could prevent thousands of deaths annually. Other benefits of reduced sodium intake are reduced risk of gastro-esophageal cancer, reduced left ventricular (heart) mass and preserved bone mass.

Data Source:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Sodium Fact Sheet. ( 308KB) November 2009.

More Information


High Blood Pressure and Sodium


Heart Disease

Feature: American Heart Month

Too Much Salt Can Be Risky (CDC radio – 0:30 seconds)


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