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Heart-Healthy Strategies to Reduce Sodium Intake

Reduce SodiumIf you or a loved one recently have been diagnosed with Congestive Heart Failure (CHF), you’ll find the return home from your hospital stay may require certain lifestyle changes. Modifying long-standing behaviors is never easy. A key modification many individuals coping with CHF must address is the amount of sodium in their diet. One of the first steps of reducing your sodium intake is to become aware of how much salt is already in your diet, and to recognize that sodium hides in almost everything in the supermarket. Added salt is everywhere: salad dressings, cold cuts and soups are loaded with it; processed foods are steeped in it; and restaurant meals can hide dangerous amounts of this life-threatening mineral. In fact, according to Cleveland Clinic, 77% of all sodium we consume is in processed food.

As a caregiver, the planning of balanced meals and helping to manage the diet of a loved one can be very challenging. Managing one’s diet can be especially difficult for seniors who struggle to prepare meals from scratch and rely on frozen entrees.

Salt does more than season our food to make it taste better. Sodium is an essential mineral, as it regulates the fluids and ions in our system and aids in the intake of many other nutrients. However, too much sodium in your daily diet can lead to hypertension, osteoporosis and even stomach cancer. You may be surprised to learn that the recommended daily allowance is only one teaspoon of table salt, which contains 2,300 mg of sodium. Less surprising is the fact that the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that the average global intake of salt is twice that level.

In January of this year, the federal government announced new guidelines specifically for diabetics: no more than 1,500 mg of sodium per day.

To truly get a grip on your sodium intake, you’ll need to be vigilant about when and how salt enters your diet. If you start to reduce sodium intake, even if it’s a little at a time, you’ll do wonders for your body, particularly your heart. Here are a few quick tips to consider as you adjust your sodium intake.

Common Sense in the Supermarket
When grocery shopping, select “low sodium” or “reduced sodium” options – or even better, choose “no salt added” foods if available. And, if you find you must incorporate frozen entrees into your diet, select those that contain 600 mg or less of sodium. Always read food labels carefully, because sodium content varies widely from product to product.

Ask the Waiter
When dining out, don’t be afraid to ask your waiter or waitress which foods are prepared with no added salt; pick your meal from those items. Also, many restaurants offer a tabletop salt substitute, but you’ll have to request it.

Say Goodbye to Pizza and Pasta
Yep, this one is going to hurt. Instant foods like pizza, pasta dishes and rice are full of sodium, and one medium pizza contains more salt than you should consume in a 24-hour period. There is no such thing as a low-sodium pizza!

Cook from Scratch and Use Smart Substitutions
Nothing gives you more control in your quest to reduce sodium intake than cooking from scratch in your own kitchen. Once you start reading the sodium content listed on labels more purposefully, you’ll be ready to cook your own low-sodium versions of your favorite meals. You won’t have to sacrifice taste either, because the grocery store offers a variety of delicious spices, herbs and salt-free seasonings.

More Support for a Healthy Heart
If you or a loved one are preparing to be released from the hospital, keep in mind that it is important to have the necessary support once out of the hospital and back in the “real world.” Residential Home Health’s Cardiopulmonary Hospital Admit Management Program (CHAMP) incorporates early intervention, behavior modification and daily vital sign monitoring with Cardiocom: Telehealth Services to reduce post-acute hospitalizations and improve patients’ quality of life at home.

While there are many reasons why so many newly-discharged seniors return to the hospital, ensuring you have the support and coaching for long-term behavior modifications such as diet, exercise, and medication compliance issues can be the difference between steady recovery at home and having to return to the hospital.

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