A diet high in salt, coupled with a sedentary lifestyle, can lead to cognitive decline in older adults, a new study shows.
Researchers at Baycrest, an affiliate of the University of Toronto, followed the salt consumption of 1,262 healthy adults between 67 to 84 years of age living in Quebec over three years.
They found those who consumed salt-laden foods and led inactive, sedentary lifestyles performed poorly on cognitive tests, compared to those who led active lifestyles and consumed more moderate amounts of salt.
The study’s findings, published this week in the journal Neurobiology of Ageing, were particularly important to the researchers.
“This data is especially relevant as we know that munching on high-salt processed snacks when engaged in sedentary activities, such as watching TV or playing in front of the computer, is a frequent pastime for many adults,” senior author, Dr Carol Greenwood, said. “This study addresses an additional risk associated with lifestyles that are highly apparent in North American populations.”
According to Dr Greenwood, educating people about lifestyle changes that can delay or prevent age-related cognitive decline can be a powerful tool in public health.
The study also showed cognitive decline stopped once participants adopted low-sodium diets.
The maximum daily recommended salt intake for people aged 14 years and older in Canada is 2,300 mg. In the study, some participants reported consuming nearly quadruple that number, at 8,098 mg a day.
To cut back on salt intake, the Mayo Clinic advises eating fresh fruits and vegetables, avoiding processed foods, opting for low sodium foods and using fresh herbs to flavour meals.