Putting the Pinch on Salt to Address High Sodium Intake Might Help Pennsylvanians Address Health Issues

(Harrisburg, PA) Taking in too much sodium may turn out to be quite a salty situation. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2010 high blood pressure cost the United States $76.6 billion in health care services, medications, and missed days of work.

A diet high in sodium is a major contributor to high blood pressure. The result is an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, congestive heart failure, and kidney disease.

Sodium occurs naturally in many foods such as beets and celery. It’s even in milk and water. The most common form of sodium is sodium chloride, more commonly known as salt.

So, to address problems associated with too much sodium, some suggest addressing overuse of salt. It’s a concern not only in the United States, but across the globe with one international group declaring World Salt Awareness Week from March 21 through 28.

Part of the problem is that many people do not closely monitor personal salt consumption. According to The Patient Poll, a study of Pennsylvania adults by the Institute for Good Medicine at the Pennsylvania Medical Society, only 24.9 percent avoid foods with high salt content. About a third of those polled (32.6 percent) pay no attention to how much salt they consume.

While your body needs some sodium to maintain the right balance of fluids, transmit nerve impulses, and to help with muscle contraction and relaxation, many people are getting far more than is recommended. New dietary guidelines for Americans suggest a healthy adult shouldn’t exceed 2,300 mg of sodium a day. But, depending upon your situation, some people should consume even less. Persons who should reduce their sodium intake are those already with high blood pressure, kidney disease, or diabetes. Also, African-Americans and older adults should closely watch how much sodium is in their diet. Considering the average American consumes 3,400 mg of sodium per day, it’s easy to see the challenges we face.

These facts concern Ralph Schmeltz, MD, president of the Pennsylvania Medical Society. And, according to the internist and diabetes specialist, we all can use a little help and guidance.

“Most people know that you really need to watch how much sodium you take in,” he said. “The problem is that it can be tricky to understand where all of this comes into a diet, and then how much you’re actually digesting.”

According to Dr. Schmeltz, the main sources of sodium in a diet come from three areas: processed foods, natural sources, and the kitchen table. The major culprit is processed foods.

For the better health of patients, Dr. Schmeltz recommends the following tips:

  1. Learn how to read food labels. Dr. Schmeltz recommends visiting the Mayo Clinic’s website which includes an interactive food label for learning purposes.
  2. Instead of salty snacks, enjoy a piece of fruit or vegetable.
  3. Think ‘Fresh’ and not ‘Processed.’ Fresh meat is lower in sodium than processed meats such as luncheon meats, hot dogs, and sausages.
  4. Buy a cookbook written for those concerned about heart disease and high blood pressure. There are plenty of good recipes available that taste great and closely monitor the amount of sodium used.
  5. Try substituting spices and juices for salt.

Since it’s nearly impossible to avoid processed foods, buy low-sodium products.

# # #

Other Resources
My Family Health & Wellness
American Heart Association
Mayo Clinic


 The Patient Poll Data







 Question Which statement comes closest to describing how you monitor your personal salt consumption? (Please check all that apply.)
 Results I am careful how much salt I add to my food. I pay attention to the salt content of the foods I purchase. I avoid foods with high salt content.   I don’t pay attention to how much salt I consume.
 47.6%  31.9%  24.9%  32.6%
Conducted  February 4-7, 2011
Margin of Error







Eligibility  Pennsylvania adults 21 or older
Survey Consultants  Taylor Brand Group, Lancaster, PA and Toluna Group