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Today, I would like to share a very personal story with you. I was initially hesitant to share this, but if I could just help one person avoid some of the health problems my husband has suffered, this article is more than worth it.

Three years ago, only six months after my husband and I were married, he suffered from a stroke. He had a massive brain hemorrhage, and it was due to high blood pressure.

The news was shocking—my husband was young, fit and in shape. He didn’t do any of the things that would put you at high risk for a stroke—he didn’t drink excessively, smoke or use drugs. After several days of testing, the doctors could only conclude that high blood pressure caused the stroke.

When you’re young, you don’t think about your blood pressure. I believe that EVERYONE should know his or her numbers—no matter how fit and healthy you think you are. High blood pressure can be hereditary, and if it gets high enough, your risk for stroke dramatically increases. Normal blood pressure should be 120/80, but if it even goes up 20 points, your chance of stroke more than doubles.

 

To manage his high blood pressure; in addition to medication, my husband had to greatly reduce the sodium in his diet. We were initially confused because he ate a pretty healthy diet. But as we did more research, we discovered there is a ton of sodium hidden in many foods. He had been exceeding his sodium limit for years and didn’t even know it.

The average healthy American should have under 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day. However, if you have high blood pressure, a history of strokes, diabetes or kidney health issues, your limit could be as little as 1,500 milligrams per day. Talk to your doctor about your unique sodium needs.

It took a bit of trial and error, but we found some ways to manage my husband’s sodium levels. So here are our secrets to reducing the sodium in your everyday diet.

Tips to Reducing Sodium in Your Diet

Eat Fresh: The number-one way is to eat fresh ingredients. Single-ingredient foods don’t tend to have any sodium, and it’s the easiest way to avoid salt in your diet.

Eat at home: Restaurant foods are packed with sodium. Even your local and fresh sandwich shop might surprise you with how much sodium is in the food. If you have to eat out, try a fresh vegetable salad with no seasoning and order your dressing on the side.

Buy frozen fruits and veggies instead of canned: Canned goods tend to have a large amount of sodium. Opt for frozen vegetables and fruit that don’t have any added preservative ingredients. Many frozen fruits and vegetables also taste better because farmers are able to harvest and freeze them while in season.

Choose canned goods wisely: If you buy canned soups, broths and stews; be sure to buy reduced sodium or no-salt-added canned goods.

Rinse food in canned goods to wash sodium away: This is great to do with your canned beans. Just by rinsing the beans, you can reduce up to 30-40 percent of the sodium packed inside.

Use herbs and spices instead of salt: Spices and herbs are very nutritious, so load your foods up with them to add flavor rather than salt. My husband and I have found we love so many different herbs that we don’t even miss the salt anymore.

Reduce or skip the condiments: Condiments are packed with sodium. Instead of condiments, try lemons, limes or even vinegar to add flavor to your dishes.

Eat foods rich in potassium: Potassium flushes sodium from our body. Bananas, orange juice, spinach, cantaloupe and baked potatoes are all good options to help rid your body of excess sodium.

Even if you aren’t struggling with high blood pressure, reducing the sodium in your diet is still good practice for a healthier lifestyle. If you’re used to a lot of salt in your food, it may take some time to adjust your taste buds, but give it a try. You may find eventually high-sodium foods will taste too salty for you!

*Please talk to your doctor about your sodium needs.  This advice should not replace the advice of your doctor.