[The following text appears within a diagram. Please see your hard copy for actual diagram.]
DO YOU HAVE HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE?
Experts have long cautioned that excessive salt intake can raise BP
ARE YOU OVER AGE 45?
Blood pressure generally rises with age–affecting men most around age 45 and women around age 65
ARE YOU AFRICAN AMERICAN?
Black adults have more hypertension than other groups, with earlier onset
Slashing salt is a good idea. The American Heart Association (AHA) advises that people with these risk factors limit dietary sodium to 1,500 mg per day–so keep an eye on your intake.
I AM NOT
Try cooking at home more. Junk-food lovers and older people with high blood pressure will benefit from making meals, since processed food accounts for 75% of Americans’ daily sodium intake.
O.K., BUT …
Keep processed food and frozen meals to a minimum. Federal guidelines recommend a 2,300 mg max of sodium per day for most people, though some experts think 3,000 mg (and even a little more) is fine.
DO YOU EAT OUT A LOT OR DO YOU CONSUME A LOT OF PROCESSED FOOD?
Careful! Restaurant and packaged meals are often loaded with sodium, even if they don’t taste salty
You’ll always get extra points for routine blood-pressure checks with your doctor, but you’re probably already in the safe salt zone. Keep it up!
Sources: CDC; Harvard Health; AHA; Institute of Medicine; Dr. Suzanne Oparil at the University of Alabama at Birmingham; American Journal of Hypertension
This appears in the September 29, 2014 issue of TIME.