- Reviewed by Christopher P. Cannon, MD, Editor in Chief, Harvard Heart Letter; Editorial Advisory Board Member, Harvard Health Publishing
Sodium, an essential component of salt, plays many vital roles in the body. This mineral helps regulate blood volume, transmit nerve impulses, and contract muscle fibers, among other things. But we only need about 500 milligrams (mg) of sodium a day to survive — and the average American consumes nearly seven times that much.
Health experts have been urging Americans to cut back on sodium for years. More than two decades ago, the landmark Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH)–Sodium trial provided strong evidence that reducing sodium in the diet can lower blood pressure. Also, too much sodium can have other detrimental effects (see "How excess sodium can harm your health").
To continue reading this article, you must log in.
Subscribe to Harvard Health Online for immediate access to health news and information from Harvard Medical School.
- Research health conditions
- Check your symptoms
- Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
- Find the best treatments and procedures for you
- Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
I'd like to receive access to Harvard Health Online for only $4.99 a month.Sign Me Up
Already a member? Login ».
About the Author
Julie Corliss, Executive Editor, Harvard Heart Letter
About the Reviewer
Christopher P. Cannon, MD, Editor in Chief, Harvard Heart Letter; Editorial Advisory Board Member, Harvard Health Publishing
As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles.
No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.