Nearly all Americans consume much more salt than they need, according to LSU AgCenter nutritionist Dr. Beth Reames. Increased salt (sodium chloride) intake is linked with higher blood pressure. Decreased salt consumption reduces the risk of high blood pressure.
Many American adults develop hypertension during their lifetimes. More than one out of every three American adults currently has high blood pressure. This includes about two out of every three Americans over age 65. According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, once you reach age 55, your chances of developing high blood pressure are nine out of 10.
Reames advises lifestyle changes to lower blood pressure and prevent or delay onset of high blood pressure: Reduce salt intake, increase potassium intake, lose excess weight, increase physical activity, eat a healthful diet.
The nutritionist notes that salt added during cooking or at the table accounts for 11 percent of sodium sources, but processed food accounts for 77 percent.
"That’s why it’s important to read the nutrition facts on food labels to find out the amount of sodium a serving of food contains," Reames says.
One of the key recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans is to consume less than 2,300 mg (approximately 1 teaspoon of salt) of sodium per day. Choose and prepare foods with little salt. At the same time, consume potassium-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables.
The dietary guidelines also include two key recommendations for blacks, middle-age and older adults and individuals with hypertension: Consume no more than 1,500 mg of sodium per day, and meet the potassium recommendation of 4,700 mg per day.
Potassium is an element in foods that blunts the effects of salt on blood pressure. It also reduces the risk of developing kidney stones and bone loss in aging.
The best food sources of potassium leafy green vegetables, fruit from vines and root vegetables. Meat, milk and cereals contain potassium, but it is not as readily available as from fruits and vegetables.
Adolescents and adults should consume 4,700 mg of potassium per day. Children should consume the amount appropriate for their age: 1 to 3 years – 3,000 mg per day; 4 to 8 years – 3,800 mg per day; and 9 to 13 years – 4,500 mg per day.
On the Internet: LSU AgCenter: http://www.lsuagcenter.com/Inst/Extension/Departments/fcs/
On the Internet: Dietary Guidelines for Americans http://www.health.gov/DietaryGuidelines/
Source: Beth Reames (225) 578-3329, or firstname.lastname@example.org
The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture