Too much salt plus too little exercise increases risk of cognitive decline

August 23, 2011 in Nutrition for Older Adults, Nutrition Topics in the News

Too much salt plus too little exercise increases risk of cognitive decline

Older adults who lead sedentary lifestyles and consume too much sodium may be putting themselves at risk for more than just heart disease.

A study from Baycrest in Toronto and McGill University and the Université de Sherbrooke in Montreal has revealed that high-salt diets coupled with low physical activity can be detrimental to cognitive health in older adults.

The study followed the sodium consumption and physical activity levels of 1,262 healthy older men and women (ages 67 -84) residing in Quebec, Canada, over three years.

While a low sodium intake is associated with reduced blood pressure and risk of heart disease, this is believed to be the first study to extend the benefits of a low sodium diet to brain health in healthy older adults.

Health Canada's recommends that people 14 years of age and older consume at most 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day. Study, senior participants were assessed as low, mid or high level sodium consumers based on a food frequency questionnaire they each completed.

Low sodium intake was defined as not exceeding 2,263 mg/day; mid sodium intake 3,090 mg/day; and high sodium intake 3,091 and greater (which went as high as 8,098) mg/day.

Researchers measured cognitive function in participants at year one (baseline) and annually for three additional years. Physical activity levels were also measured.

The findings showed that a diet high in sodium, combined with little exercise, was especially detrimental to the cognitive performance of older adults. But sedentary older adults showed no cognitive decline over the three years if they had low sodium intake.

The study was published online in the journal Neurobiology of Aging.

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