Your doctor might often be telling you to decrease your sodium intake, and with good reason — too much salt can lead to countless health problems. But for a number of reasons, including budgetary concerns and a smaller household (requiring meals for one or two people at most), many older adults rely on takeout or processed foods that can be especially high in sodium. The impulse is understandable, as these meals are usually much easier to come by. If that sounds like you, however, it might be time to reconsider your meal planning strategies in light of potential side effects. Here’s a look at some of the complications a few tweaks to your usual menu may help you avoid.
1. High Blood Pressure
The American Heart Association recommends a sodium intake of 1,500 milligrams or less, yet the average American consumes 3,400 milligrams daily. One disease that excess sodium consumption commonly contributes to is hypertension. Otherwise known as high blood pressure, hypertension is the leading risk factor for death in women in the United States, with around 200,000 deaths annually — and that’s not counting the statistics for subsequent heart disease and stroke that this condition is known to cause. Maintaining healthy blood pressure levels may help you avoid this dangerous domino effect.
2. Weakened Bones
Most people, especially women, know how important it is to get enough calcium for strong bones — and many recognize that osteoporosis can increase their likelihood of falling. But did you know that a low-calcium diet isn’t the only factor that contributes to osteoporosis? A high-sodium diet is another potential threat to your bone health. Sodium-heavy diets can increase the levels of calcium your body deposits through urine, effectively causing a calcium deficiency. And when your blood lacks calcium, it borrows what it needs from your bones. Over time, this can cause bones to thin and weaken, increasing the risk of osteoporosis.
3. Stomach Ailments
A third possible complication that may be caused by excess sodium intake is stomach cancer. Over time, salt can cause inflammation of the stomach lining, predisposing you to gastric ulcers and increasing your risk of cancer.
So, what can you do to prevent these diseases? Aside from setting down the salt shaker, watch for the hidden sodium in your diet in processed foods. Try to avoid or reduce your reliance on some of the biggest sodium culprits: bread and deli meats (and sandwiches that combine the two), hamburgers, pizza, salty snacks, breaded poultry, and soup. Read the labels on the prepared or processed foods you buy, and try to incorporate more natural foods into your diet. Fresh ingredients found on the perimeter of your local grocery store might often be
the best to include in your next meal or snack. Everyone loves to indulge in flavorful foods, but sodium, consumed in excess, is a serious threat to senior health. When you’re getting ready to spice up your next meal, think fresh, moderate, and healthy for a longer, happier life.