If you enjoy the salty taste of fast food or chips, you’re not alone in your heightened intake of sodium. Approximately 90 percent of Americans consume too much sodium daily, and repeatedly getting too much of this mineral leads to a number of health complications. Although your body needs sodium for its muscles and nerves to work properly, cutting down your intake can contribute to better health as you age.

Overall Health Risks

Regularly consuming too much sodium increases your risk of stroke, heart disease and high blood pressure. High blood pressure is a noteworthy concern for women, as it plays a role in the deaths of nearly 200,000 women in the United States annually, according to the American Heart Association. Other side effects of consuming a high-sodium diet include an increased risk of osteoporosis, kidney stones, kidney disease, headaches and stomach cancer.

Physical Appearance Effects

A high sodium intake can also have negative effects on your appearance. With high levels of sodium in your body, you may experience increased water retention, which can give you a bloated, puffy appearance. This puffiness can occur in all areas of your body but is commonly seen in the hands and feet. Water retention can also lead to general stiffness, body aches and fluctuating body weight.

Risks for Children

Just as you must be cautious about negatively affecting your health through a high-sodium diet, you must also ensure your children don’t consume too much sodium. Children who eat a high-sodium diet have a heightened risk of high blood pressure not only as children but a greater risk of this health issue as they age. Children who eat excessive amounts of sodium can also develop a taste for high-sodium foods, which puts them at risk of the myriad sodium-related health issues in adulthood.

Reduce Your Sodium Intake

Reducing your sodium intake lessens your risk of this mineral negatively impacting your health. The American Heart Association suggests restricting your sodium intake to less than 1,500 milligrams per day. To reduce the sodium in your diet, read labels of food products, and check nutrition information at restaurants and in the supermarket. In particular, limit or avoid foods like packaged breads, prepared meats, pizza and soup, all of which contain high levels of sodium.