Sodium: There Can Be Too Much of a Good Thing

By: Nikki Vaspra, B.S.N., CSUN Dietetic Intern Cohort 2019-2020

Sodium is an essential nutrient that is involved in the regulation of fluid and electrolyte balance in the body, along with blood pressure. Sodium balance in the body is influenced by water and regulated by the kidneys. Some people may consume too much, however, leading to a variety of health issues like kidney disease, gastric cancer, osteoporosis, and hypertension.1

So, what is hypertension? High blood pressure, or hypertension, is one of the most prevalent chronic conditions treated by physicians. It can lead to eye and kidney problems, a stroke, peripheral artery disease (PAD), a heart attack, and even heart failure. In the United States, there is a 90% chance of developing hypertension in your lifetime.2 When blood moves through vessel walls, this force is known as blood pressure. One high blood pressure reading alone is not indicative of hypertension. However, when the blood pressure reading is elevated above target on at least two different readings (taking the average of the readings), hypertension is diagnosed.2

Table salt (NaCl) contributes significantly to the total intake of sodium in our diet. Furthermore, sodium can also be found in high concentrations in breads, pastries, deli meats, cheese, chips, and other snacks. Processed foods and canned soups are the biggest culprits, along with frozen dinners. Additionally, sodium is naturally occurring in foods like eggs and milk, and vegetables like beets and celery.3

The average American consumes about 3,000-5,000 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day. This is much higher than the AI (adequate intake) of 1500 mg/day for adults that is recommended, which is equivalent to ¾ tsp a day. However, people living in a hot climate or sweating a lot may have higher needs. The UL (upper limit) is set at 2300 mg/day, meaning that this is the maximum recommended intake for sodium to prevent health problems. It is important to remember that some people are not as sensitive to salt as others, so they may not have such an increase in blood pressure with excess sodium ingestion the way others who are more salt sensitive may have.4

Prevention and treatment of hypertension include lifestyle changes. Making improvements in your daily life is the simplest way to prevent hypertension and avoid health complications, including cardiovascular problems and even death. Reducing sodium intake, increasing fruit and vegetable intake, regular physical activity, and weight loss (if overweight or obese) are some ways to reduce your risk of developing hypertension. There is even a salt substitute that can be purchased and used in place of regular table salt, called potassium chloride, located next to salt in your grocer’s isle. But do not fear–there are treatment options to help you if diagnosed. Your doctor will more than likely recommend the lifestyle modifications mentioned above. Also, there are medications that could be prescribed. Hypertension medications are highly individualized and you should discuss medication options with your physician. 5


  1. Strazzullo P, Leclercq C. Sodium. Advances in Nutrition. 2014;5(2):188-190. doi:10.3945/an.113.005215
  2. Khoury SR, Ratchford EV. Hypertension. Vascular Medicine. 2018;23(3):293-297. doi:10.1177/1358863×18764836
  3. Eyles H, Shields E, Webster J, Mhurchu CN. Achieving the WHO sodium target: estimation of reductions required in the sodium content of packaged foods and other sources of dietary sodium. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2016;104(2):470-479. doi:10.3945/ajcn.115.125146
  4. Trumbo P, Shimakawa T. U.S. Food and Drug Administration on modernization of the Nutrition and Supplements Facts labels. Journal of Food Composition and Analysis. 2009;22. doi:10.1016/j.jfca.2009.01.002
  5. Lemogoum D. Challenge for Hypertension Prevention and Control Worldwide: The Time for Action. The Journal of Clinical Hypertension. 2014;16(8):554-556. doi:10.1111/jch.12373

Leave a Reply