Average Diet Is Too High In Sodium

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture
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The Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH) is reaching out to the public and health care providers to educate more people about the dangers of consuming too much sodium, particularly among those at risk for or currently struggling with high blood pressure.

A new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that more than 2 out of 3 adults fall into a risk group recommended for lower sodium intake. These groups include people who have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, African-Americans, middle-aged people and older adults. Yet, the study found, in 2005-06, the estimated average sodium intake among Americans was 3,436 mg a day – more than double the recommended amount for most people.

“Studies have shown that a diet high in sodium content can contribute to high blood pressure,” said William Hacker, M.D., DPH commissioner. “By lowering the sodium content in our diets, we can possibly control blood pressure and reduce the risk of developing heart disease. This is yet another example of how nutrition and lifestyle choices can contribute to overall well-being.”

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The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005 recommends that adults, in general, should consume less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day (about one teaspoon). People considered at risk for hypertension should consume no more than 1,500 mg per day.

A diet high in sodium increases the risk of having high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. According to DPH, hypertension is a major cause of heart disease and stroke, diseases that claimed the lives of 13,879 Kentuckians in 2005.

“Hypertension is a significant risk factor for all forms of atherosclerotic vascular disease (hardening of the arteries), and increased salt intake contributes to high blood pressure. The mere presence of atherosclerotic vascular disease places a patient in jeopardy for premature death or major disability,” said Patrick Withrow, M.D., a Paducah cardiologist and member of the Lieutenant Governor’s Task Force on Cardiovascular Health. “Often, people are hesitant to scale back on their salt intake due to the impact on the taste of food. I’ve found, with many of my patients, if they are willing to make the change to low salt, their personal tastes often change within two months.”

“Reducing the amount of salt in a person’s diet is recommended for anyone with high blood pressure and is our first line of defense in treating people who are considered to fall into the category of prehypertension,” said Hacker. “We strongly urge that the health care community discuss sodium consumption with patients, particularly those who fall into high risk groups.”

Choosing foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, requesting that restaurants prepare foods without added salt, and reading the nutrition label of foods before purchasing them can improve health for all adults.

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