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County takes aim at sodium

The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the most recent, recommend an adult consume 2,300 mg of sodium per day, or 1 teaspoon of salt. Although, the guidelines continue to recommend for higher-risk adults, which include individuals with hypertension, blacks and middle age and older adults should consume no more than 1,500 mg of sodium per day and meet the potassium recommendation of 4,700 mg per day.

"I think seniors are no different than the rest of Americans," said Pratt. "We have seen the sodium content in our foods gradually go up in the coming of the years and we have grown accustom to the increased salt intake."

Americans consume on average 3,400 milligrams of sodium, according to DOH officials, but people aren't adding the salt themselves because 80 percent of sodium intake is from package or processed foods, or foods purchased in restaurants.

"The bulk of the sodium we get in our diet comes from prepared and processed foods, so the salt shaker on your table is as always a concern but two-thirds of what we ingest is sodium that comes in prepared food such as soups," said Pratt. "The people who really got a serious blood pressure problem are getting 50 percent too much (sodium)."

If people stopped and concentrated on their first sip of soup, said Pratt, he thinks they would be struck by how salty canned soup really tastes. But in a few years, the taste might change.

"We are beginning to see manufacturers make beneficial changes," said Pratt. "This is not all doom and gloom; there is on the horizon, I think, a more alert and aware food industry."

Consumers might also not really be aware of how high the sodium content in the meat they're buying too. He said people concerned about their blood pressure and what meat they choose might avoid red meat and get turkey, but some grocery stores will brine the turkey breast that adds a higher level of salt into a product people think of as being more healthy.

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