Thursday, August 25, 2011

Too Much Salt May Damage Your Brain

We know that we shouldn't consume too much salt each day. That much has been made crystal clear to us over the course of the past few years, but the idea is still highly confusing to many. The main reason that is cited for slashing our sodium intakes is to manage or lower our blood pressure to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. As it turns out, that's not the only reason why we should watch how much sodium we eat, according to a new report published in in the journal Neurobiology of Aging.

According to researchers from the University of Toronto's Baycrest Center for Geriatric Care, a sedentary lifestyle coupled with high sodium intakes not only ups our risk for heart disease and stroke, but it increases our risk of dementia.

Over the course of 3 years, the researchers examined the diets of 1,262 healthy, elderly men and women and found that those with the highest sodium intakes and lowest levels of physical activity had the poorest results on tests of cognitive performance. High sodium intake was defined as 3,091 mg per day and over. Low sodium intake was defined as intakes below and up to 2,263 mg per day. The current healthiest recommendation in Canada is to stick below 1,500 mg per day and more ideally 1,200 mg per day.

While physical activity is a key factor in maintaining good health and lowering one's risk of heart disease and stroke, sedentary individuals in this study who cut back on their sodium intakes or followed low-sodium diets did not experience the same cognitive decline as their high-sodium intake counterparts.

Using less salt is not necessarily the solution, despite the fact that most people think it is. The real culprits of high-sodium foods tend to be those that are canned, cured or otherwise processed and packaged. If people don't know how to read nutrition labels or what numbers to look for, they may fall into a salty trap without even knowing it! Seeing as how we have a high population of aging individuals here in Canada, it is imperative that we help them make healthy choices and cut back on their sodium intakes wherever possible.