Should we all be lowering our sodium intake, or is it more important for some people than others?

Most American adults over age 20 probably need to lower their sodium intake to bring it down to a healthy level of 2,300 mg of sodium a day. What's more, 3 in 5 of us need to lower our sodium intake even further, to 1,500 mg or less a day. This includes anyone over the age of 40, all adults of African-American ancestry, and anyone with high blood pressure.

How can we lower our sodium intake?

The best way to gauge how much sodium you're consuming is to record your intake for a week. Write down what you’re eating for a full seven days because you probably eat differently on the weekend than you do on weekdays. Become familiar with the sodium content of foods you typically eat. If you’re not sure how much sodium foods contain, check out this helpful list giving sodium counts from the USDA.

Pay attention to your body, too. You might suspect high sodium intake if a few hours after you eat, you feel very thirsty and/or you retain water and your ankles swell. However, these signs can also indicate other health problems.

If you have high blood pressure, discuss your eating habits with your doctor to determine whether high sodium foods might be one cause.

Reproduced from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health.

Additional Sources:

CDC. "Vital Signs: Food Categories Contributing the Most to Sodium Consumption — United States, 2007–2008" Available at Accessed on: February 10, 2012.

FDA. "Code of Federal Regulations Title 21." Available at Accessed on February 15, 2012.

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at

Published: 01 May 2009

Last Modified: 29 Aug 2013