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A Healthy Diet For Older Adults Includes Salt In Moderation: Not All Elderly …

Managing salt in any diet is important, but even more so for older adults, who become more sensitive to the seasoning’s effects as they grow older. But with moderation being key, a new study finds it might be OK to go a little over the American Heart Association’s recommended 1,500 milligrams of sodium or less each day. Especially since consuming that amount, which comes out to a little less than three-quarters of a teaspoon, is hard to achieve with so many people eating fast food or restaurant food.

The study, from researchers at Emory University in Atlanta, found that older adults could live relatively healthy lives even if they consume up to 2,300mg — exactly one teaspoon — of salt each day, which is still far less than the 3,400mg the average American consumes. Still, that doesn’t mean older adults should eat freely, as going over that threshold brings with it common heart-related health problems.


Those heart problems start with high blood pressure, which increases the amount of pressure applied to artery walls, and eventually lead heart disease and stroke — two of Americans’ leading causes of death. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in three U.S. adults has high blood pressure, and only half of them have it under control. This happens because high blood pressure, known as the “silent killer,” often goes unnoticed; there are no symptoms of the condition until it really starts to impact health, which makes its prevention all the more necessary.

For the study, the researchers looked at the self-reported diets of 2,642 older adults aged 71 to 80 over the course of 10 years. At follow-up, they found that 33.8 percent of those who averaged 1,500mg of sodium a day had died, 35.2 percent of those who ate more than 2,300mg of salt had died, and, among those who ate a moderate 1,500 to 2,300mg, 30.7 percent had died. While there was no statistically significant correlation, the researchers also found there was evidence of heart-related problems among those who consumed more than 2,300mg.  

“In older adults, it’s probably OK if you stick with the general recommendations of the one teaspoon,” said study author Dr. Andreas P. Kalogeropoulos of Emory University, according to Time. “If you reach 70 and are free of cardiovascular disease or heart failure, these people are probably going to do OK with the standard recommendations. But know that anything over one teaspoon is bad for your health.”

Sodium intake in the U.S. is such a big problem because Americans have acquired a taste for salt through dining out and eating processed foods bought from the supermarket. In fact, over 75 percent of the salt Americans consume comes from those sources, while the rest comes from the salt shaker. The CDC urges people to look for other ways to season their foods, including using more fresh herbs, and spices like oregano and parsley.  

Source: Kalogeropoulos A, Harris T, Yang Z, et al. Dietary Sodium Content, Mortality, and Risk for Cardiovascular Events in Older Adults: The Health, Aging, and Body Composition (Health ABC) Study. JAMA Internal Medicine. 2015. 

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