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Heart Disease overview > Heart Health Q&A >

Cut Salt to Reduce Swelling?

Q: My husband has swelling in his ankles and legs. How can I reduce sodium in his diet, including salad dressings and when eating out?

A: Swelling in the legs, ankles, and feet can be caused by serious medical conditions of the heart, liver, kidneys, and blood vessels, as well as by retaining sodium. So it's important that your husband consult his doctor to find out the cause of his leg and ankle swelling.

Once your husband has seen his doctor, he should limit his salt intake to less than 1,500 mg per day, which often requires planning because so many packaged foods contain more salt than you may think. You can save hundreds of milligrams of sodium by reading food labels.

A useful resource for home cooks is the American Heart Association Low-Salt Cookbook (3rd edition).

When dining out, stick to foods made without sauce, or ask for low-salt versions of foods on the menu.

Jennifer H. Mieres, M.D., is director of nuclear cardiology and associate professor of clinical medicine at New York University. She's also a spokeswoman for the American Heart Association.

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