The mineral sodium interacts with other dietary factors to affect your health. Sodium is naturally present in some foods and added to others in the form of sodium chloride, or salt. Most American women who reach 40 years of age have already experienced a lifetime of overconsumption of sodium. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, the average sodium intake increased by 55 percent from the 1970s to 2004, largely due to the proliferation of commercially processed and prepared foods and their salt contents.
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Besides giving flavor to foods, the sodium in salt is an essential nutrient that regulates processes such as muscle contraction and fluid balance in the body and blood cells. These functions directly affect your cardiovascular system. Chronic high intake of sodium can cause high blood pressure, or hypertension, which can damage arteries and affect the heart muscle tissue, raising your risk for heart attack and stroke. Because your risk for heart disease climbs as you age, making dietary changes to curb your sodium intake at age 40 can prevent a premature death from cardiac events.
Recommended Sodium Limits
The normal daily sodium intake for a healthy 40-year-old female as per the U.S. Department of Agriculture is 2,300 mg or less], or about 1 teaspoon of salt total. This includes the natural and added sodium contents from food and beverage sources. If you already have high blood pressure or have a family history of hypertension, the USDA considers 1,500 mg or less a safe intake. The Harvard School of Public Health recommends this limit for individuals over age 40.
Actual Sodium Consumption versus Needs
Most Americans get far more salt than is recommended or than they need. While your body uses only 200 mg of sodium for normal functions, the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans from the USDA note that the average daily consumption is about 3,400 mg, or nearly 50 percent more than the upper-limit recommendation. This explains the widespread prevalence of hypertension in nearly 1 in 3 American adults, as noted in 2011 information from the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute.
Influence of Potassium Intake
The flip side to the sodium issue is its dependence on another dietary mineral, potassium, in regulating fluid and blood pressure levels. Potassium checks the action of sodium in the blood, to control the escalation of blood pressure. In addition to overconsuming sodium, most Americans underconsume potassium, in large part due to low intakes of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. As you control your sodium intake, increase your potassium consumption to 4,700 mg daily, for better cardiovascular health, notes the USDA.