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High Salt Diets Can Be Dangerous For The Elderly


Most of us know that a high salt intake can have detrimental effects on our health. Changing the behavior means knowing the facts as most of our understanding of where salt is being consumed is quite jaded. Irrespective of your age, overdoing it with salt can be harmful but for the elderly it poses an even greater risk. It is not the salt that is the problem but a single element known as sodium. While sodium is necessary for various functions in the body and low sodium levels can be dangerous in itself, an excess of sodium intake can have a host of effects on the body beyond just the heart and blood pressure.

Salt in Foods

Most of our salt intake comes from processed foods, not table salt as is often thought. Even if you think that you are using salt sparingly in your cooking or at the dinner table, you are only getting about 10% to 20% of your daily salt intake from the salt shaker. Salt, or more correctly the sodium that partly makes up salt, is available in many different foods and beverages, from processed foods to sports drinks and even self-raising flour.

If you are serious about tackling the problem of a high sodium diet then you need to speak to a dietitian. Reading food labels is also crucial. Sodium free actually does not mean that there is no sodium at all in foods. Many preservatives and other food additives also have sodium. However, it is salt itself that contributes the most amount of sodium to the body, believed to be up to 90% of our daily intake.

How Much Salt is Safe?

Remember that the body needs sodium for the proper functioning of the heart, muscles and nerves and to maintain a normal blood pressure. So a low sodium diet should not mean a ‘no sodium diet’. Ideally you should not exceed more than one teaspoon of salt per day. But do not be fooled by this quantity. Eating just half a teaspoon extra per day can increase your risk of high blood pressure and heart diseases.

It is not always possible to calculate the exact quantity of salt in all foods. As a general rule of thumb, stay away from all processed foods and limit the amount of salt you use when cooking or shake on your meal at the dinner table. Controlling the sodium intake from processed foods alone can make enough of a difference to ensure that you are not crossing your daily sodium limit.

Salt and Chronic Conditions

The elderly are particularly at risk when it comes to high salt diets mainly because of their pre-existing chronic diseases. Hypertension and heart disease becomes more common later in life. Most seniors are using medication to control their blood pressure and the workload on the heart. Although these drugs are essential and very effective, this does not mean that there should be no lifestyle alteration. Diet and exercise are necessary and unrestricted sodium intake in particular will render the benefits of these drugs useless in the long run.

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