Are you eating too much salt? Are you patronizing your sedentary lifestyle? If you answer yes to both questions, you're taking on a deadly combination of risk increasers for both heart and brain diseases.
According to a new Canadian study, excessive intake of salt and lack of physical activity increase the risk for heart disease and cognitive decline. The study made use of data from the Longitudinal Study on Nutrition and Successful Aging to discover that a high-sodium diet coupled with sedentary lifestyle can cause cognition problems in elderly and heart problems even among younger ones.
The study involved 1,262 healthy participants aged 67 to 84 years old. Those with the highest intake of sodium, which is about 3,000 mg a day or more and the lowest levels of physical activity, showed the most decline in cognitive function over a three-year course.
Those who had the lowest intake of salt of no more than 2,263 mg a day and exercised on a regular basis showed minimal to no decline in cognitive function over the same period. The link remained strong despite varying factors in lifestyle like educational level, employment, overall diet, and so on.
Today, more than 4 million Americans suffer from certain form of dementia. The rate is even expected to rise after a few years. Nutrition experts say that people today eat too much salt. An average American takes in 3,400 mg of sodium a day, which is a lot more than the suggested amount as stated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Dietary Guidelines. Adults should only take in 2,300 mg per day. Those with hypertension or above the age of 50 should consume no more than 1,500 mg a day.
When it comes to exercise, people aren't doing any better. Couch potatoes are spread all over the country and they're not moving an inch to change their lifestyles. A person should set aside at least 30 minutes of his/her day for physical activities. Even 15 minutes a day can help significantly.
• Cut Salt
To reduce sodium in your diet, remove the salt shaker from the dining table - out of sight means out of mind. Instead of sprinkling salt on the dishes you're cooking, try using herbs. Herbs, whether fresh or dry, are beneficial to one's health. They contain antioxidants that fight the free radicals in the body. These free radicals can cause premature aging as well as cancer. Antioxidants also help in cellular repair.
• Cut Processed Foods
Apart from these, it's also a must to remove processed food products from your diet. Processed meats in particular are very rich in sodium. Even if you avoid the salt shaker like a plague but still eat processed meat three times a day, you'll still be at risk of heart and brain diseases.
• Start Exercising
Now for the exercise part, it's important to find physical activities that you'll enjoy. That's the trick for sticking to the exercise routine. If you're not fond of going to the gym, find something else that you'd be excited about like biking with friends, hiking with family, or dancing salsa - whatever works for you as long as it gets you moving.