Keeping sodium intake down: how difficult can it be?



salt-and-lightWhy is sticking to a low sodium diet so difficult? Apparently it is difficult mainly because of problems with diet.

The recommended daily intake of sodium for patients with heart failure is 2 g or 2,000 mg. However, many patients take in more than that and only one-third can actually stick to a low sodium diet.

The study looked at 116 heart failure patients, their diet and their sodium intake. The study results showed that the average intake was 2,672 mg per day. This may seem high but looking at the range, the figures are even more shocking. The lowest intake was 522 mg whereas the highest was 9,251 mg per day – more than 4 times the recommended daily rate!

The researchers attribute this high sodium intake to poor diet. This typically consists of foodstuffs with hidden salt content, e.g. fast food meals, bread, pizza, and lunch meat. Furthermore these foods are also high on calories, thus adding insult to injury. The study results clearly indicate that

“Heart failure patients need individualized diet plans that lower sodium and enhance the overall quality of their diet.”

However, keeping sodium intake down is not only recommended for heart failure patients. Everybody has to watch their salt intake for the sake of their cardiovascular health. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends the following:

  • 2,300 mg of salt per day for health people
  • 1,500 mg of salt per day for high risk individuals, e.g. middle aged and older adults, African Americans and those suffering from hypertension.

According to Dr. Carolyn M. Reilly, coauthor and researcher at Emory University in Atlanta

“The patients themselves were shocked to find out they were eating more than 2000 mg of sodium a day…There is so much salt hidden in foods that patients aren’t aware of. While they may have thrown away their salt shakers, they didn’t know that 70 percent of the sodium in the American diet is in the food, not the shaker. Everything processed has sodium in it to give it a longer shelf life. In addition to safety, sodium is also added to foods to enhance texture and mask bitterness. Some of the big culprits we have identified in this population are cured meats such as hot dogs and bacon, and other processed foods like canned soups, salad dressings and condiments.”

The study results also indicated that higher sodium intake was especially common among those who eat high-calorie diet and fast food, males, and those of lower economic status. Lower sodium intake was associated with low-calorie diet, less carbohydrate an fat intake (but not less protein), females, and those earning at least $35,000 a year.

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.
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