Salt is not normally praised as part of a heart-healthy diet. In fact, this mineral has gotten a pretty bad rep, to the point where many are afraid to go near it.

There’s been some dispute among medical professionals over current sodium intake recommendations. The CDC suggests anyone over the age of two should limit themselves to 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day; those over 50, or people with hypertension, diabetes or chronic kidney disease should consume no more than 1,500 milligrams. But the American Heart Association says no one should consume more than 1,500 milligrams, no matter how young and healthy they are. To add more confusion, recent research has shown that sugar may actually affect high blood pressure more than salt.

Well, we’re here to ease your fears a bit: New research shows adults over 50, who are directed to follow the lowest sodium limitations, might not need to be so strict about limiting salt intake.The study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, considered self-reported diet information from over 2,600 older adults and found that higher sodium intake was not associated with an increased risk of death, cardiovascular disease, or heart failure. Yes, those who had up to 2,300 milligrams were no worse off 10 years later than those who limited themselves to 1,500 milligrams daily.

Sodium is an essential mineral our body actually needs to work properly. It keeps muscles and nerves firing and functioning, controls blood pressure, and keeps your body’s water content and electrolytes happily balanced. Getting too little of it can actually affect your heart health, too.

Keep in mind that this information doesn’t mean you should load up on pretzels and bacon. What constitutes “too much” just might be less cut and dry than many thought — and varies from person to person and from one medical condition to another. Always talk to your doctor to set personalized health and nutrition goals that are best for you.

It seems the only people who need to limit sodium are those with salt sensitive high blood pressure—but how do you know if you have that? If you have high BP and eliminate salt for a week, both the upper and lower numbers on your BP reading should drop by more than 20 points. For all others, maybe sodium and salt do not make much of a difference. So if you fall into that “everyone else” category, never beat yourself up if you go over that unrealistic 1,500 milligram limit.

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