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Study Questions Strict Sodium Guidelines for Older Adults

CardioSmart News

Reducing sodium intake to fewer than 1,500 mg a day may be excessive for older adults, according to a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

It’s well-established that consuming too much salt can lead to high blood pressure and other risk factors for heart disease and heart failure. That’s why the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that anyone over the age of two should limit salt intake to less than 2,300 mg a day and that some groups of people, including adults over 51, should further reduce sodium intake to 1,500 mg daily. According to national surveys, adults 51 years and older consume 3,100 mg of sodium per day on average and fewer than 2% of adults in that age range meet current sodium recommendations.

To assess the benefit of strict sodium intake in older adults, researchers used data from the Health, Aging and Body Composition (Health ABC) Study, which included more than 3,000 adults in their seventies. Researchers collected information on health and diet from participants at the start of the study and followed individuals for 10 years, tracking outcomes such as heart disease, heart failure and death.

After analysis, investigators found that sodium intake was not significantly associated with risk of heart disease, heart failure or 10-year mortality. However, consuming more than 2,300 mg of sodium a day was associated with greater risk of death, but findings were not considered statistically significant.

Authors believe their findings warrant further investigation into the benefit of strict sodium restriction among older adults. Not only do few older adults adhere to current guidelines that limit sodium intake to 1,500 mg a day, it’s difficult for older adults to change long-standing dietary habits. If there is little difference between limiting salt intake to 1,500 mg and 2,300 mg a day in older adults, such strict sodium restriction may not be necessary. However, that’s not to say that limiting salt intake is not important in older adults. Studies show that high sodium intake is dangerous for young and older adults alike, and reducing sodium intake is an important part of a heart-healthy diet.

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