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The Link Between Higher Life Expectancy and Lower Sodium

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The Link Between Higher Life Expectancy and Lower Sodium

Women in Nagano, Japan can expect to live an average of 87.2 years and men 80.9 years according to Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare. This is one of the highest life expectancy rates in the world and a healthy lifestyle is to credit. In the 1980s this region had the highest rate of strokes in Japan. What turned this statistic around? A healthy diet, regular physical activity, extended work years and government intervention providing education and resources all played a significant role. The big dietary change was reducing sodium intake from 15.1 grams a day to 6-7 grams per day. The education was delivered through seminars and clinics at supermarkets, shopping malls and community centers. Home visits were also made to measure the salt content in daily meals and to provide recommendations to decrease the amount of sodium. 

In the United States, the average sodium consumption for adults is 3,400 milligrams a day which is above the recommended amount. The big contributing factors are processed and prepared foods; restaurant meals; and table salt. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend everyone ages two and older to consume less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium each day and the following groups of people should limit sodium intake to 1,500 milligrams a day:

  • Adults age 51 and older
  • African Americans
  • Anyone with high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease

Here are some tips to reduce sodium intake:

  • Pay attention to food labels. Focus on the “mg” of sodium per serving. Low sodium is defined as 140 mg or less per serving. Beware of claims such as reduced sodium, less sodium, light in sodium, unsalted, no salt added because these foods may still have a significant amount of sodium as compared to the original products. Read the ingredient list for high sodium items such as MSG; baking soda or powder; sodium alginate, citrate or nitrite.
  • Fill your plate with more fresh or frozen vegetables (with no added sauce) and fruit.
  • Kick the habit of adding salt to your food at the table—try removing the shaker so you are not tempted. 
  • Remove salt from recipes when possible. One teaspoon of salt has 2,325 mg sodium. 
  • Use herbs, spices and other flavorings to enhance the taste of foods. Try garlic, onion, lemon, lime, vinegar or salt-free seasonings such as Mrs. Dash. A great resource for recipes and food lists that are low in sodium is DASH Diet for Dummies written by Sarah Samaan, Rosanne Rust and Cindy Kleckner, RDN, LD, FAND, Cooper Clinic Registered Dietitian.
  • Limit eating out to special occasions. Request to leave off the salt in the meals you order.

Sodium is an acquired taste so it will take some time for your taste buds to adjust to lower sodium foods. You will learn to enjoy the taste of the food itself and some foods may even taste too salty. High blood pressure affects one out of three adults in America and leads to more heart attacks and strokes than any other risk factor. Limiting sodium is one way to keep your blood pressure under control. Take a look where the sodium is in your diet and try to make a few tweaks to reduce the amount.       

To meet with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist at Cooper Clinic, visit or call 972.560.2655.

Article provided by Cooper Clinic Nutrition Department.