By Tom Joseph
Pennsylvania Bureau, Public News Service
HARRISBURG PA – So you’ve put down the salt shaker. There’s a good chance you’re still getting too much sodium in your diet, which professionals claim puts you at risk for serious health issues like cardiovascular disease.
Many Pennsylvanians have done a good job cutting back on salt in foods they prepare at home, according to registered dietitian Lori Jones of the Health Institute of St. Louis. The problem, she added, is that most people just don’t cook for themselves as much these days.
“We don’t have a lot of control over what is in our food when we eat out, so we’re picking up a lot of sodium there,” she said. “We’re also into convenience, so we’re using a lot of pre-packaged, processed food.”
- The Pennsylvania Department of Health agrees. Only 11 percent of the salt in state residents’ diets is added at the dinner table, it reports. Nearly 80 percent of the salt consumed in the Commonwealth is added to food before it reaches a plate.
Nearly all of 1,000 people recently surveyed by the American Heart Association either underestimated, or didn’t know, how much sodium they eat every day. Too much sodium can increase a person’s risk for high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease and other major health problems.
Jones said most people consume nearly double the recommended 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day, or about three-quarters of a teaspoon. Unfortunately, she said, the consequences of a high-sodium diet are no longer limited to adults.
“We’re starting to see high blood pressure in younger ages, like teenage years,” she said, “and if you have a child that’s overweight, having a high-salt diet may push them toward high blood pressure at an earlier age.”
What can individuals do? Pennsylvania’s Salt Reduction Initiative offers these tips:
- High-risk groups – including African Americans, adults age 40 and older, and anyone with high blood pressure – should consume LESS than the daily recommended amount.
- Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Buy low-sodium foods by learning how to read, and compare information on, food packages’ nutrition fact panels.
- When eating out, ask for no or low salt items.
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death and disability worldwide, according to the association. That’s why it created an online toolkit to help people determine and reduce the amount of sodium in their diet. Find the toolkit here.
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Photo by Alvimann via MorgueFile