Before my husband suffered a heart attack in August of 2014, we thought that we were a pretty healthy family. We didn't eat the really bad foods and always made sure we had fruits and vegetables in our home. But our ideas about what was healthy and what was unhealthy were turned upside-down after learning what was really in the food we were eating.
Why should we limit sodium?
High amounts of sodium over an extended period of time can lead to high blood pressure. High blood pressure is also called "the silent killer" because most people who suffer from high blood pressure have no symptoms.
What is blood pressure?
Blood pressure is the amount of force it takes for the blood to flow through the blood vessels. If a person has high blood pressure it takes more force than normal for the blood to flow through the blood vessels which could result in damage to the blood vessels, leading to heart disease, stroke and kidney disease. According to the CDC, heart disease is the leading cause of death in men and women in the U.S.
What are the recommended sodium amounts?
The upper level recommendations for sodium intake are less than 2,400 mg of sodium per day (about 1 teaspoon of salt per day) and less than 300 mg of sodium per serving.** The recommended daily sodium intake for children younger than 14 is 1,500 mg per day. An adequate amount of sodium for all Americans ages 9 to adult is 1,500 mg.
So how much sodium are Americans really consuming? The average daily intake of sodium for all Americans ages 2 to adult is 3,400 mg per day, but that doesn't really tell the whole story. A closer look at the sodium intake of each individual age group shows some shocking results. Adults age 30-39 average the most sodium intake per day with males consuming 4,600 mg per day and females consuming about 3,200 mg per day. (source: Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 chart pg. 22)
The amount of sodium that young children are consuming is also disturbing. Boys ages 2 to 5 are consuming an average of 2,300 mg of sodium per day and girls are consuming an average of 2,100 mg of sodium per day. Boys and girls ages 6 to 11 are on average consuming more than the recommended daily intake of an adult. Boys average 3,200 mg per day and girls average 2,900 per day. (source: Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 chart pg. 22)
The more I learned about heart disease and the American diet, the more clear it was to me why heart disease is the leading cause of death in this country. Americans starting as young as 2 years old are consuming much more sodium than they should be!
Most of the sodium in the American diet can be found in processed foods. In May of 2012, the FDA stopped regulating the amount of sodium in our food, which I believe will only make a bad situation worse.
In Part 2 of this series, I will be highlighting some common foods in the American diet that have high amounts of hidden sodium.
**(These recommendations are for healthy adults under age 51. If you are over 51, have high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease or are African American, the daily recommended sodium intake is 1,500 mg per day. Be sure to follow your doctor's recommendations.)
American Heart Association
Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 Chapter 3 pgs. 21-23
Sodium in Your Diet: Using the Nutrition Facts Label to Reduce Your Intake
Center for Disease Control and Prevention Heart Disease Facts
Disclaimer: I am not a nutritionist or a dietitian and I don't have any letters after my name. I am a wife of a heart attack survivor who was surprised by the facts that I learned about heart disease and the American diet and want to share what I have learned with others. If you are under the care of a physician, please follow your doctor's recommendations.
Image courtesy of Mister GC at FreeDigitalPhotos.net