Nutrition-wise blog

Confused about diet and heart health?

By Jennifer K. Nelson, R.D., L.D. and Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D. May 26, 2011

The American Heart Association recently surveyed 1,000 adults to determine their awareness and knowledge about how wine and salt affect blood pressure and overall heart health. Their findings show that people understand only part of the message about wine and salt. What's your IQ when it comes to heart health?

Test yourself, then read on for the answers:

  1. If you're going to drink wine, what should be your daily limit?
  2. The primary source for sodium in the American diet is table salt. True or false?
  3. Sea salt is lower in sodium than table salt. True or false?
  4. How much sodium (from all sources) should you limit yourself to in a day?

And now the answers:

  1. Dietary guidelines recommend that if you choose to drink alcohol you do so only in moderation — up to one drink a day for women or two drinks a day for men. Only 30 percent of people surveyed knew the recommended limits. Moderate consumption of alcohol — including wine — is associated with a lower risk for cardiovascular disease. However, drinking too much alcohol can increase blood pressure, produce irregular heartbeats, lead to heart failure, stroke, high triglycerides, obesity, some cancers and addiction.
  2. If you said false, you were correct. The salt shaker contributes only about 10 percent of the total intake. Nearly half of those surveyed thought table salt was the primary source of sodium in the American diet. In fact, 80 percent of sodium intake is from processed foods, such as canned tomato products, soups, processed meats, snack chips, cheese and even bread. Too much sodium increases blood pressure as well as the risk for heart disease and stroke.
  3. This is also false. Sea salt is not lower in sodium than table salt. Both are 40 percent sodium by weight.
  4. Dietary guidelines recommend limiting sodium to less than 2,300 milligrams a day — or 1,500 milligrams if you're age 51 or older, or if you are black or if you have high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease. Most Americans get more than twice that amount each day.

How did you do? Try the survey on your friends and family too — and let me know how you all did.

- Jennifer

May 26, 2011