If you have too much salt in your diet, you are not alone. The CDC says nine in ten Americans consume more than the recommended limits for sodium – which mostly comes from salt in the diet – an excess of which leads to high blood pressure, raising the risk of cardiovascular diseases, including heart attack and stroke. It can also contribute to dementia and kidney disease. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, salt is one of the leading culprits in fueling the rise in healthcare costs in America.

It is hard to believe but research shows that if we just reduce our salt intake by only about a half teaspoon a day, we would significantly reduce the number of new cases of coronary heart disease and deaths in our country.

If you eat too much salt, the extra water stored in your body can raise your blood pressure. The higher your blood pressure, the greater the strain on your heart, arteries, kidneys and brain.

. It is not just cutting back on the salt shaker.  Most of our high salt intake comes from processed food and restaurant-prepared food. Look for healthy alternatives to fast and frozen foods and you will do your heart good.

Since blood pressure rises with age, monitoring your sodium intake increases in importance as you get older. Here are six tips to reduce salt in your diet.

  • 1

    Read the Nutrition Facts Label

  • 2

    Prepare your own meals (and limit the salt in recipes and “instant” products).

  • 3

    Buy fresh meats, fruits, and vegetables.

  • 4

    Rinse canned foods containing sodium (such as beans, tuna, and vegetables).

  • 5

    Add spices to your food. Instead of salt, try coriander, black pepper, nutmeg, parsley, cumin, cilantro, ginger, rosemary, marjoram, thyme, tarragon, garlic or onion powder, bay leaf, oregano, dry mustard, or dill.

  • 6

    Reduce portion size; less food means less sodium.