Sodium Intake and Your Health

05-01-2018The Well

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently noted that only half of the 75 million adults in America who have hypertension (high blood pressure) have it under control. One reason, says the expert team, is that people with hypertension often fail to take the medications that could help keep it under control. As hypertension typically has no symptoms, it might be “out of sight, out of mind,” even as it raises the risk of heart disease, stroke, vascular dementia, vision loss, kidney disease and other dangerous health conditions.

Poor medication compliance is only part of the story. We’ve known for years that high salt (sodium) intake raises the risk of hypertension. Most of us are aware that we should limit the amount of salt that we eat. Despite this, say experts, Americans have not cut their salt intake. Indeed, people who already have high blood pressure are consuming more salt than they did at the turn of the century!

Medication to control hypertension is important but lifestyle changes should go hand in hand with a medication regime. We should watch our weight, start moving by exercising or simply walking 5 miles a day, and limit those highly processed foods that contain a huge amount of sodium.
What is the problem with salt?

When we consume excess sodium, it increases water retention which in turn increases the blood flow pressure, increasing our blood pressure. This increased blood pressure creates strain on the heart and cardiovascular system.”

There are five steps that the World Action on Salt & Health offers us to help reduce salt intake:

  1. Check food labels before you buy to help you choose less salty options.
  2. Drain and rinse canned vegetables and beans; better yet, eat more fresh fruits and vegetables.
  3. Gradually add less salt to your favorite recipes; your taste buds will adapt.
  4. Use herbs, spices, garlic and citrus in place of salt to add flavor to food.
  5. Take salt and salty sauces off the table so younger family members won’t develop the habit of adding salt.

Yes, says WASH, salt is even bad for children. Eating too much salt during childhood increases blood pressure throughout life, raising a person’s risk of heart attacks and stroke. And seniors, of course, are strongly cautioned to cut back their salt consumption. As WASH points out, removing the salt shaker is only the beginning. All kinds of hidden salt lurks in the food products we purchase at the grocery store and when we’re dining out. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released a list of the top 10 sources of sodium in the average American diet. This rogue’s gallery provides almost half the sodium we eat each day. Some of these might surprise you!

And here they are:

  • Breads and rolls
  • Pizza
  • Sandwiches (store bought bread and sandwich spreads)
  • Cold cuts and cured meats
  • Soups (canned)
  • Burritos and tacos
  • Savory snacks (such as chips, popcorn, pretzels, snack mixes and crackers)
  • Chicken (that has been precooked)
  • Cheese
  • Eggs and Omelets (ordered in restaurants)

You can find more information about cutting back on sodium from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Action on Salt & Health, the American Heart Association and the National Kidney Foundation.

*Information from this article was obtained through Assisting Hands Home Care in association with IlluminAge.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding your health or your family’s, feel free to contact Kathy Ford RN/Parish Nurse at 630-922-0081 or