Too much salt or excess sodium intake

Too much salt or excess sodium intake will elevate the blood pressure and cause edema (usually ankles and feet swelling). This particularly occurs in person who is more sensitive to sodium.

The kidneys regulate the amount of sodium by retain or excrete it as needed. When there’s a high amount of sodium in the body, the kidneys will excrete more sodium to balance body fluid volume while when it’s too low, the kidneys will retain more of it to maintain a normal fluid volume.

However, when the kidneys can’t excrete enough of sodium, excess sodium starts to accumulate in the body. The accumulated excess sodium then leaks to the surrounding tissues causing swelling especially in the ankles and feet. In addition, because sodium pulls and holds water, high sodium concentration in the body will lead to an increase in the blood volume. The heart then needs to work harder to maintain normal circulation thus resulting in high blood pressure.

Sodium Sources

Sodium (often known as salt) is one of many minerals that help in maintaining normal blood pressure and balancing water volume in the body and tissues. It’s also needed by the nerves and muscles in order to function properly. It can be found in:

  • Natural foods such as dairy products, eggs, fish, celery
  • Processed foods such as smoked meats, ham, bacon, cheese, canned foods
  • Salt-containing seasonings such as table salt, baking soda, monosodium glutamate (MSG)


The recommended amount of sodium intake per day is no more than 2,400 mg for healthy adults, the lower the better. You can reduce your salt intake by: eating more fresh foods such as fresh fruits, vegetables, or meats which are naturally low in sodium; avoiding or reducing processed foods; using herbs and spices instead of salt-containing seasonings to enhance the taste of the foods. When ankle and feet swelling occurs, walking and lying down with the leg elevated above the heart usually alleviate the swelling. You can also wear support stockings to prevent the swelling.