As February represents American Heart Month, FDA is reminding consumers to be wise about reading food labels and watching how much sodium they eat. In the US, an estimated 56 percent of adults have either hypertension (high blood pressure) or prehypertension (slightly elevated blood pressure), according to FDA. Increased sodium intake can increase your risk of developing hypertension, which can lead to heart attacks, heart failure, stroke, kidney disease, and blindness.

FDA reminds consumers to use the Nutrition Facts Label to check the sodium content of packaged foods and beverages. Packaged foods and beverages can contain high levels of sodium, whether or not they taste salty. The Daily Values are the amounts of nutrients recommended per day for Americans 4 years of age and older. The Daily Value for sodium is less than 2,400 milligrams (mg) per day – that's equal to about 1 teaspoon of salt. Yet on average, FDA says Americans eat about 3,400 mg of sodium a day.

Because of this, FDA advises using the percent daily value (DV) as a tool:

-5 percent DV or less of sodium per serving is low

-20 percent DV or more of sodium per serving is high

The percent DV listed is typically for one serving, but one package may contain more than one serving. Be sure to look at the serving size to determine how many servings you are actually consuming.

More than 40 percent of the sodium consumed by Americans comes from the following 10 types of foods:

-Breads and rolls

-Cheese (natural and processed)

-Cold cuts and cured meats (such as deli or packaged ham or turkey)

-Mixed meat dishes (such as beef stew, chili, and meat loaf)

-Mixed pasta dishes (such as lasagna, pasta salad, and spaghetti with meat sauce)


-Poultry (fresh and processed)

-Sandwiches (such as hamburgers, hot dogs, and submarine sandwiches)

-Savory snacks (such as chips, crackers, popcorn, and pretzels)