Sodium is a mineral that helps regulates the body’s water balance, maintains normal heart rhythm and is responsible for nerve impulse conduction and muscle contraction. Getting too much sodium from food and beverages contributes to high blood pressure in some people because it holds excess fluid in the body, creating an added burden on the heart. Processed food is the source for 77 percent of sodium in the diet for most Americans. Excess sodium can also increase your risk for stroke and heart failure.The American Heart Association recommends choosing and preparing foods with little or no salt. To lower blood pressure, aim to eat no more than 2,400 milligrams of sodium per day. Reducing daily intake to 1,500 mg is desirable because it can lower blood pressure even further. It is estimated that an average intake of 1,500 milligrams a day would reduce high blood pressure in America by about 25 percent and save more than $26 billion in annual healthcare costs.