One of the common dietary recommendations seniors hear is to focus on low sodium meals. In the United States, that can often be a challenge. Salt seems to be in just about everything – especially when you eat out or buy processed foods.
If it takes effort and means turning down foods you love, then you want to know for sure the advice is accurate. Should seniors actually eat less salt?
As it turns out, the research isn’t entirely clear.
Research Suggests the Dangers of Salt Have Been Exaggerated
While it feels like common knowledge that lots of salt is bad for us, several studies have found that limiting salt intake doesn’t actually seem to make a big difference in health. A recent analysis of seven different studies found that there’s no clear evidence for the claim that salt reduces the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
In some of the studies, the people who had the least amount of sodium in their diets fared the best in terms of blood pressure and heart health.
This is one case where the advice that feels like common knowledge may not have any truth to it at all.
Some Seniors Should Still Use Caution
Before you pull out the saltshaker and start pouring it with abandon, the research does find that some people are still sensitive to a higher salt intake. While the studies suggest everyone shouldn’t assume salt is bad for them, some people do actually experience negative health effects from high sodium diets.
Amongst the people who are more likely to experience higher blood pressure due to eating too much salt are:
- Seniors over 50
- People with diabetes
- African Americans
- People who already have high blood pressure
As with so many aspects of health and how human bodies work, what’s right for one person can be entirely different than what’s right for another.
Talk to your doctor.
Paying attention to health-related research won’t always tell you what’s best for you, but it is useful for helping you know the right questions to ask when you next go to the doctor. Your doctor will be able to provide advice based on the bigger picture that combines their own knowledge of health care and research and how it applies to your case in particular.
If you’d like to re-introduce your beloved salt into your life, come to them with your questions first. Ask if they feel the research shows that you don’t have much to be concerned about, or if even in the face of this research they think you should stick to low sodium foods.
Be prepared that you may not get the answer you want, but it’s better to know that you’re taking the right course forward than it is to guess wrong and increase your risk of a heart attack.
Salt can make food taste better; no one can deny that. But if your doctor does recommend cutting down you should be able to find tasty recipes to replace your old standards and may find your taste buds adapt to enjoying milder flavors as much as they used to enjoy saltier foods.