Low Sodium Diet: The New Regular
Although sodium is required for certain bodily functions such as transmission of nerve impulses and the contraction and relaxation of muscles, it is important to stay within the recommended guidelines of no more than 2300 milligrams per day in order to avoid complications (UCSF Medical Center, 2015). On average, Americans eat up to twenty times more sodium than recommended, approximately five or more teaspoons of salt each day (UCSF Medical Center, 2015).
“Although it can be found naturally in some foods, a majority of sodium comes from addition during processing and preparation. Sodium can be found in many foods such as canned, processed, convenience and restaurant foods. Sodium controls our fluid balance in our body and influences our blood pressure levels.” (U.S Department of Health and Human Services, 2015) “Heart disease and stroke have become the second and third leading causes of death in Canada.” (Statistics Canada, 2014) Since these diseases are becoming prevalent issues in our society, it is important to take the necessary dietary measures in order to prevent them from happening. These statistics make it evident that an implication of a heart healthy diet needs to be put in place in different food service environments such as hospitals, long term care homes and retirement homes. One of the main components of a heart healthy diet would be low sodium, as it can affect on the cardiovascular system in various ways. By increasing blood pressure, there is an increase in the risk of heart disease and stroke.
According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, even those with normal blood pressure levels can benefit from reducing salt intake as the average diet is typically so high in salt (Heart and Stroke Foundation, 2015). Certain individuals have an increased sensitivity to sodium in comparison to others, increasing the risk of not only heart disease and stroke, but kidney disease and congestive heart failure. By converting all regular diets in hospitals and long term care homes to heart healthy diets; there will be a further reduction in the risk of these complications among patients and residents (Heart and Stroke Foundation, 2015). This can be done by opting for low sodium products such as low sodium canned tomatoes, avoiding the addition of salt through the production process and using herbs and spices to season food (Mayo Clinic, 2013). Not only is it important to feed those in hospitals and long term care homes a heart healthy diet, but it is also important to prevent complications within school children as well. It is stated by the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada that between the ages of six and twelve, children develop eating habits that they have for the rest of their lives (Heart and Stroke Foundation, 2013). Therefore, it is crucial to introduce a heart healthy diet into school cafeteria’s and after school programs in order to help children develop heart healthy eating habits that are low in sodium.
By having a low sodium diet become the new regular diet, it can decrease the risk of many major diseases for our vulnerable population and create a happier, healthier country.