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Salt: How Much Is Too Much?

Posted 9/20/2016 by UHBlog

Most of us consume too much salt. We can help you figure out the right amount to use.

Salt: How Much Is Too Much?

Do you know exactly how much sodium you're getting in your daily diet? If you eat a lot of processed or restaurant foods, you may be getting all the salt you need. Still, getting the right amount of salt is important.

“Salt is one of those minerals the body uses in a variety of ways, from nerve conduction to many metabolic processes,” says internal medicine specialist Ibrahima Goudiaby, DO. “Going too far to either end of the spectrum is bad. Too little salt is dangerous and could lead to brain herniation.”

The American Heart Association says healthy people should have about 2.3 grams – or about one teaspoon – of salt per day. People with health conditions, such as heart or liver failure, high blood pressure and/or leg swelling, need to limit intake to 1.5 to 1.8 grams.

“Actually, the salt shaker may be unnecessary for the average American, who is thought to consume about 3.3 grams of salt daily, most of which comes from processed food, snacks, soda drinks, cheese and other package food,” Dr. Goudiaby says.

While salt doesn’t cause disease, it can exacerbate cardiovascular disease, diabetes and stroke. If you have those conditions, be wary of your sodium intake.

Unfortunately, that may be more difficult as you age.

“As we age, we lose the ability to perceive the taste of salt,” he says. “Just like vision declines, taste degeneration is a normal part of the aging process.”

For seniors, it can be a challenge to balance your salt consumption.

“On one hand, we're concerned about fluid balance in those with illnesses,” Dr. Goudiaby says. “And on the other hand, we're concerned about good nutrition because malnutrition is rampant in this population. This is often made worse because of loss of tastebuds, and taste alteration caused by some medications.”

If you have a health condition that requires you to go easy on the salt shaker, Dr. Goudiaby recommends using alternatives, such as herb blends that don't contain salt. It could take a few weeks to retrain your taste buds and adjust to using less salt, however.

“If an older person has no relevant health [issues], I wouldn’t worry about them adding salt,” he says. “We shouldn’t be so tough on people who need a little extra salt to interest their appetite. Nutrition is important.”

Ibrahima Goudiaby, DO is an internal medicine specialist at University Hospitals Euclid Internal Medicine. You can request an appointment with Goudiaby or any other health care professional online.

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