Current Recommendations of the American Heart Association and 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans Regarding Sodium Intake

by Diane, M.P.H, M.S.

The United States Department of Agriculture (U.S.D.A.) and the Department of Health and Human Services released updated Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) on January 31, 2011. The DGA recommend that sodium intake be less than 2,300 milligrams (about 1 teaspoon) per day for healthy individuals, and less than 1,500 milligrams a day for anyone:

  • Age 51 or older, since this group has a very high percentage of hypertension and pre-hypertension
  • With high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease
  • At high risk for these diseases
  • All African Americans, since they tend to have a greater sensitivity to dietary sodium

The recommendations include all sources of sodium, i.e., salt naturally found in food, added during processing, preparation, and before eating.

The American Heart Association (AHA) states that the current DGA limit of 2300 mg. of sodium per day is too high for most Americans. According to the AHA, more than 68% of the American population fit the categories requiring less than 1500 mg. per day. Nearly 34% of American adults have hypertension (high blood pressure) and 36% have pre-hypertension (blood pressure levels above normal). Therefore, the AHA recommends that the daily intake for all Americans should be limited to 1500 mg. or less, in order to reduce the risk of hypertension and subsequent cardiovascular disease which kills more Americans than any other condition.

Two of the dietary factors that are most linked to high blood pressure are excessive sodium intake and insufficient potassium intake. Consequently, some of the key recommendations of the AHA and DGA are to limit sodium and increase consumption of a more heart-healthy, nutrient-rich diet of fruits and vegetables, dried beans, nuts and seeds, low-fat or non-fat milk and yogurt, unrefined whole grains, fish, and healthy fats.

Keep in mind that the recommended sodium intakes are upper limits. Less is usually best, especially if you are sensitive to the effects of sodium and trying to control your blood pressure. If you are not sure how much sodium your diet should include, talk to your doctor.


  1. American Heart Association. “USDA Sodium Advice Gets thumbs down from AHA.” 02/01/11. (Source:
  2. American Heart Association. 7272 Greenville Avenue, Dallas, TX 75231. Telephone: (800) 242-8721. (Source: < > and
  3. American Heart Association. American Heart Association Low-Salt Cookbook: A Complete Guide to Reducing Sodium and Fat in Your Diet. 3rd ed. New York: Clarkson Potter Pubs., 2006.
  4. “Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005.” January 12, 2005. (Source:>)
  5. Institute of Medicine. Strategies to Reduce Sodium Intake. 04/20/10.
  6. Kim, Janet. “2010 Dietary Guidelines From USDA and HHS. Medscape Public Health. Medscape interview with Xavier Pi-Sunyer, MD, MPH, about his work with DGAC and the latest edition of the DGA. Dr. Pi-Sunyer is a nationally recognized expert on obesity, type 2 diabetes, carbohydrate and lipid metabolism, and general medicine, member of the 2010 and 2005 DGAC, Professor of Medicine at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, and Chief of the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Nutrition at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York, NY. 02/14/11.
  7. “Sodium: How to tame your salt habit now.” Mayo Clinic Staff. 08/02/11. (Source:>)


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