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may injure the walls of the blood vessels and lead to blood flow blockages. The added pressure tires the heart because it forces it to pump more blood through the body. Eating less sodium can prevent the high blood pressure that occurs with age and reduce the risk of heart failure, heart attack, kidney diseases, stroke, stomach cancer, osteoporosis and even headaches. The extra water in the body can also lead to weight gain and bloating.


The effect of sodium and salt on blood pressure is usually greater in people over age 50, African Americans and people with kidney disease or diabetes, which is nearly half the American population. Even children need to be careful about their sodium intake. Those who have high-sodium diets are about 40 percent more likely to have high blood pressure than children with low-sodium diets. This puts them at a higher risk of heart disease when they grow up.


Here are some sodium-related terms you may see on food packages:


•  Sodium-free – Has less than 5 mg of sodium per serving and no sodium chloride

•  Very low sodium – 35 mg or less per serving

Sodium is an essential mineral for life. It is regulated in the body by the kidneys. It helps control the body’s fluid balance, affects muscle function and helps send nerve impulses.


An Australian study showed the brain responds to sodium in the same way it responds to substances such as cocaine and heroin, which may explain why we tend to overindulge in high-sodium foods. Another Canadian study of 1,200 older sedentary adults with normal brain functioning found over a period of three years high-sodium diets were linked to an increased risk of cognitive decline.


Table salt consists of two minerals: chloride and sodium. By weight, table salt is approximately 60 percent chloride and 40 percent sodium. About 90 percent of Americans’ salt intake comes from sodium chloride, and nearly 75 percent of the sodium consumed comes from prepackaged, processed and restaurant foods – not from the salt shaker. The body needs less than 500 mg per day of sodium to function properly, which is less than a quarter teaspoon. A teaspoon of salt has 2,300 milligrams of sodium. However, most people consume more than about 3,400 mg of sodium daily, more than twice the amount recom-mended by the American Heart Association. Extra sodium in the bloodstream pulls water into your blood vessels, increasing the volume of blood inside them, and with more blood flowing, blood pressure increases. Over time, high blood pressure

SODIUM AND YOUR HEALTH

HARLEENA SINGH

Harleena Singh is a professional freelance writer with a background in teaching and education. She has a keen interest in food and health related issues and can be approached through her website freelancewriter.co. Checkout her blog and network with her on Google+, Twitter, and Facebook.

more articles by harleena singh

•  Low sodium – 140 mg or less per serving

•  Reduced (or less) sodium – at least 25 percent less sodium per serving than the usual sodium level

•  Light (for sodium-reduced products) – the food is “low calorie” and “low fat” and sodium is reduced by at least 50 percent per serving

•  Light in sodium – sodium is reduced by at least 50 percent per serving


You can make small changes in your diet that can bring big results when it comes to your health. Here are some tips:


•  If you love pizzas, try a cheese-less pizza with lots of vegetables and chicken strips.

•  Try low-sodium varieties of soups.

•  When making sandwiches, choose low-sodium meats and low-fat, low-sodium cheese.

•  Check the nutrition labels on packaged and prepared foods and watch for the words “soda” and “sodium” or the abbreviation “Na,” which means sodium compounds are present.

•  Use fresh, skinless poultry instead of processed or fried chicken.

•  Choose foods with potassium, which counters the effects of sodium; it may help lower your blood pressure.