With so many conveniently pre-packaged foods to choose from at grocery markets and endless lists of mouthwatering dishes to order at restaurants, it is easy to consume too much sodium on a daily basis. While this mineral assists in regulating our body fluids and maintaining nerve transmissions and muscle contractions–all of which are essential for survival—too much is known to lead to high blood pressure. High blood pressure, also called hypertension, is when the blood pressure stays elevated over a long period of time. The blood pressure remains high due to the forceful pushing of blood against arteries while the heart pumps blood, causing the heart to work much harder than it has to. This can ultimately increase the risks of both stroke and heart failure. An excessive daily sodium intake can also damage the kidneys. Sodium in our bodies balance our body fluids by signaling these organs when to replenish and when to dispose the water. A high-sodium diet can intervene with this natural process, making it more difficult for the kidneys to properly function. When unnecessary strain is applied to the kidneys, it can higher the chances of kidney disease, developing kidney stones and even severely worsening kidney problems in those already with high blood pressure.
Although blood pressure heightens naturally with age, limiting sodium intake can keep it from increasing at greater intervals. The source of this condition is mainly from consuming those pre-packaged foods that are loaded with sodium as well as restaurant dishes where detailed nutritional facts are not typically unveiled. Added salt when cooking is still partially responsible, however, is not emphasized as much. The first step in adjusting to a diet with a healthy sodium intake is acknowledging and understanding the Nutrition Facts label on food products. The Daily Values are suggested amounts of nutrients per day for those four years of age and up. The ideal DV for sodium is >2400 mg per day. It is important to utilize the %DV (Percent Daily Value) on the label which tells you the percentage of the nutrient in one serving size out of 100% of the Daily Value for sodium, to keep track of your intake. Generally, a food item with a 5% DV or less of sodium per serving is low while 20% DV or more of sodium per serving is considered high. Foods packed with sodium that should be limited in a healthy diet include canned soups, cold cuts (deli meats and cheese), processed poultry, breads, pasta/meaty dishes, Keeping a well-balanced diet does not necessarily signify eliminating enjoyable foods, but instead reducing the portion sizes to one serving, finding similar yet healthier alternatives of those particular foods and opting to cook meals while taking precautions with the amounts of salt used.