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 consuming less than 1,500 milligrams of sodium a day. 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.