Seniors and Sodium: The Importance of a Low-Sodium Diet

In general, it is never a good idea for someone to consume a diet consistently high in sodium because of the adverse health effects. However, 89% of adults aged 19 and older eat too much sodium.

Dangers of a High-Sodium Diet
A diet high in sodium can lead to problems such as heart failure, headaches, kidney disease, enlarged heart muscle, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, stroke, kidney stones, and stomach cancer. In seniors, the effect of a high-sodium diet can be even more dangerous since they are already more susceptible to these conditions.

For many of the above conditions, age is also a risk factor, albeit one that cannot be controlled. Because of this, caregivers need to take actionable steps against risk factors that are controllable, such as the amount of sodium that you use when preparing your client or loved one’s diet. Our experienced RNs can discuss low sodium diet options at the assessment. This information will be placed on the new client’s Plan of Care.

Benefits of a Low-Sodium Diet Include:

  • lowers blood pressure
  • decreases cancer risk
  • lowers cholesterol
  • reduces the risk of a heart attack
  • reduces the risk of congestive heart failure
  • reduces the risk of a stroke
  • decreases the risk of kidney damage
  • reduces the risk of diabetes
  • improves memory
  • lowers the risk of dementia
  • builds stronger bones

Caregivers need to ensure that seniors adopt a diet that is low in sodium without eliminating it altogether. Sodium is an essential mineral that the body needs to maintain the body’s fluid and blood volume. However, too much sodium negatively affects these functions, so it is important not to overdo it. Our caregivers are provided with diet information when meal prep is a part of our client’s care plan.

How to Adopt a Low-Sodium Diet
The first step in reducing sodium consumption is to consume plenty of foods low in sodium but high in other essential vitamins and minerals. Foods that fit these criteria and are an excellent addition to any diet include:

  • Senior Shopperfresh and frozen vegetables
  • fresh and frozen fruit
  • grains and beans
  • fresh or frozen meat or fish
  • eggs
  • healthy fats
  • dairy products
  • bread and baked goods
  • unsalted nuts and seeds

When cooking meals and seasoning meats, grains, or vegetables, it is important to watch the salt content. While the foods themselves may be low-sodium, sauces can quickly escalate in sodium content. Instead, try experimenting with other herbs and healthy seasonings to add flavor to the dish.

It is also important to be wary of canned foods since salt is often used as a preservative in the canning process. One tip for using canned vegetables is to rinse the vegetables before using them, as this will help to decrease the sodium content.

Besides consuming more low-sodium foods, other ways to reduce sodium consumption at home include forgoing the addition of any salt to food during the cooking process, refraining from having a saltshaker on the table, and limiting salty snacks.

Get into the habit of reading labels. Prepackaged foods usually have high sodium contents. Dietary guidelines list less than 2,300 mg of sodium a day and some groups of people, including adults over 51, should further reduce sodium intake to 1,500 mg daily.

Are you unsure how to implement a low-sodium diet for your client or loved one while still ensuring that they get all the nutrients they need? Talk to your doctor about a healthy low sodium diet. He or she can provide you with a list of foods that are perfect for a low sodium diet as well as foods to avoid. There is also lots of valuable information online. Allcare CNAs and caregivers offer healthy meal preparation as part of our care. Call (919) 301-0236 today to schedule an in-home assessment.