Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Health Care and Sodium Intake

Americans like their table salt. But you've been trying to eat less sodium — just a pinch of table salt on your baked potato and a dash to your scrambled eggs. According to the Mayo Clinic, a pinch and a dash can quickly add up to unhealthy levels of sodium, especially when many foods already contain more than enough sodium. About 11% of the sodium in the average U.S. diet comes from adding salt or other sodium-containing condiments to foods while cooking or eating. But the majority of the sodium — 77% — comes from eating prepared or processed foods that contain the mineral. So even though you may limit the amount of salt you add to food, the food itself may already be high in sodium.

Your body needs some sodium to function properly according to the Mayo Clinic. Sodium:
--Helps maintain the right balance of fluids in your body.
--Helps transmit nerve impulses.
--Influences the contraction and relaxation of muscles.
Your kidneys regulate the amount of sodium kept in your body. When sodium levels are low, your kidneys conserve sodium. When levels are high, they excrete the excess amount in urine.
If your kidneys can't eliminate enough sodium, the sodium starts to accumulate in your blood. Because sodium attracts and holds water, your blood volume increases. Increased blood volume, in turn, makes your heart work harder to move more blood through your blood vessels, increasing pressure in your arteries. Certain diseases such as congestive heart failure, cirrhosis and chronic kidney disease can lead to an inability to regulate sodium. Some people are more sensitive to the effects of sodium than are others. People who are sodium sensitive retain sodium more easily, leading to excess fluid retention and increased blood pressure. If you're in that group, extra sodium in your diet increases your chance of developing high blood pressure, a condition that can lead to cardiovascular and kidney diseases.

According to the American Heart Association, limiting sodium — which we get through salt, baking powder, baking soda and other substances in foods we eat — is one of the most important things that people with heart failure can do. Sodium makes the body hold on to fluid. To pump the added fluid, the heart has to work harder. People with heart failure shouldn't put this extra strain on their hearts.Also, too much salt can worsen symptoms like swelling and shortness of breath and cause weight gain. If those symptoms become severe, the person may need to be admitted to the hospital. Physicians often recommend keeping salt intake below 2,300 milligrams (mg) per day for most people. However, for people with heart failure, recommended sodium intake is no more than 2,000 mg per day. Most people eat considerably more than this, so it's likely that a person with congestive heart failure will need to find ways to cut down on salt. Since most salt intake comes from eating and drink prepared and packaged foods, reading food labels to determine how much sodium is in a food or beverage is a great start to lowering sodium intake.

According to WeightLossforAll.com, Sodium in the body is mainly found in the fluids that surround the body's cells, such as the blood and lymph fluid. When sodium intake exceeds the amount the body can handle it builds up within the interstitial areas and the kidneys have to work extra hard to excrete a constant rise in daily sodium intake. A build up may cause the body to hold extra fluids in the blood and around the cells which contributes to increased blood pressure and also excess weight gain from water. The average diet in the western world is commonly made up of fast, packaged or convenient foods. These always consist of high levels of salt and salt contains sodium. If a diet is mainly composed of high sodium foods then naturally the sodium intake also rises thus extra weight is gained quickly as the body holds onto water. It has been estimated that many people in the USA may be carrying up to 5 pounds of extra weight due to the effects of a high sodium intake. The opposite effect also happens when an individual reduces food intake in order to lose weight quickly. A percentage of the loss will be water because a reduction in high sodium foods means a reduction in daily sodium intake which results in water loss as the kidneys have a chance to finally rid the excess sodium from the body. This also helps partly explain why a dieter may experience the yo-yo effect when dieting, water weight is lost with food reduction but quickly regained when old eating habits are back to normal and daily sodium intake rises once more.

Rates of hypertension (high blood pressure) are rising and affect more than 25% of Americans; another 25% or so is considered "pre-hypertensive" and will develop hypertension if they keep eating the way they do according to the San Francisco Chronicle. And a hefty majority of older Americans, African Americans and Hispanic Americans have full-blown hypertension. Blood pressure rises with age in response to sodium in the diet. Many people have high blood pressure but don't know it. For these reasons, most people would be better off eating less sodium and, therefore, less salt. Table salt is sodium chloride. In America, high-salt diets are the default. About 80% of dietary salt is added to processed, restaurant, fast and catered foods. We have no choice about their salt content, which is why most Americans eat twice as much salt as the recommended upper limit (2,300 mg a day) and three times as much as is actually required (1,500 mg a day). We don't need extra salt. So wouldn't it be better to change the default? If companies used less salt in processed and prepared foods, it would be easier to eat less of it. People who want more salt can always add it at the table.

One side of experts says everyone needs to cut back on salt to reduce heart disease risk according to Medical News Today. The other side says universal salt reduction would be a needless deprivation for many people. Which is correct? There isn't a simple answer.In the most general terms, getting less sodium (the problematic component of salt) in the diet lowers blood pressure. But how sodium reduction affects an individual depends on his or her genes, age, and medical conditions, reported in the Harvard Heart Letter. But there really isn't a one-size-fits-all recommendation for daily sodium intake. If you are under age 50, your blood pressure is in a healthy range, and your health is good, you probably have little reason to worry about salt intake. A lower-sodium diet is good for people who are older, who are of African American descent, or who have high blood pressure or diabetes.

You may or may not be particularly sensitive to the effects of sodium according to the Mayo Clinic. And because there's no way to know who might develop high blood pressure as a result of a high-sodium diet, choose and prepare foods with less sodium.
You can cut sodium several ways:
1.) Eat more fresh foods and fewer processed foods. Most fresh fruits and vegetables are naturally low in sodium. Also, fresh meat is lower in sodium than luncheon meat, bacon, hot dogs, sausage and ham are. Buy fresh and frozen poultry or meat that hasn't been injected with a sodium-containing solution. Look on the label or ask your butcher.
2.) Opt for low-sodium products. If you do buy processed foods, select those that have reduced sodium.
3.) Remove salt from recipes whenever possible. You can leave out the salt in many recipes, including casseroles, stews and other main dishes. Baked goods are an exception. Leaving out the salt could affect the quality as well as the taste of the food.
4.) Limit your use of sodium-laden condiments. Salad dressings, sauces, dips, ketchup, mustard and relish all contain sodium.
5.) Use herbs, spices and other flavorings to enhance foods. Learn how to use fresh or dried herbs, spices, zest from citrus fruit, and fruit juices to jazz up your meals.
6.) Use salt substitutes wisely. Some salt substitutes or light salts contain a mixture of table salt (sodium chloride) and other compounds. To achieve that familiar salty taste, you may use too much of the substitute and actually not use less sodium. In addition, many salt substitutes contain potassium chloride. Though dietary potassium can lessen some of the harm of excess sodium, too much supplemental potassium can be harmful if you have kidney problems or if you're taking medications for congestive heart failure or high blood pressure that cause potassium retention.
7.) Your taste for salt is acquired, so it's reversible. To unlearn this salty savoring, decrease your use of salt gradually and your taste buds will adjust. Most people find that after a few weeks of cutting salt, they no longer miss it. Start by using no more than 1/4 teaspoon (1 milliliter) of added salt daily, and then gradually reduce to no salt add-ons. As you use less salt, your preference for it lessens, allowing you to enjoy the taste of food itself.

Too much of a good thing can be dangerous. Check with your family doctor about your sodium levels to make sure that you are getting just the right amount. Pay attention to sodium levels in processed foods, and go light on the table salt. Be attentive to your health by watching what you eat, and get the lab tests you need if you are having problems with too much sodium in your system.

Until next time. Let me know what you think.

1 comment:

Dallas said...

This is a great post for anyone that needs help with finding legal advice. I found a malpractice attorney in the Los Angeles area that helped me get to the bottom of my civil suit.