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Grants Aimed at Lowering Sodium Content for Seniors in Meal Programs

The New York State Office for the Aging and some of its partners in county offices for the aging all over the state have been working on an important initiative: lowering sodium intake for older New Yorkers participating in the congregate and home-delivered meals programs.

Sodium is the leading cause of high blood pressure, which leads to stroke and heart attacks.

In September 2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) awarded funding for three years to the NYS Department of Health (NYS DOH) through the "Sodium Reduction in Communities" Program.

According to 2010 New York State Vital Records, Broome County had a high mortality rate for premature deaths associated with cardiovascular diseases (128.8 per 100,000 compared with a state rate of 103.9 per 100,000) and a higher mortality rate for stroke (37.7 per 100,000 compared with a state rate of 26.3 per 100,000). In addition, the percentage of Broome County adults reporting a diagnosis of high blood pressure exceeds the New York State Rate (28.9% compared with a state rate of 25.7%).

NYS DOH worked with the Broome County Health Department and the Schenectady County Public Health Services who partnered with their local office for the aging to reduce the sodium content in meals offered to older adults in congregate meal sites and home delivered meals programs.

The Broome County Health Department and the Broome County Office for the Aging Congregate and Meals on Wheels programs launched an initiative to reduce the sodium in meals for 4,400 participants. Through successful collaboration with partners the project succeeded in reducing sodium in these meals over a two year period. In 2010, the average congregate meal contained 1,517 mg of sodium. Since then, the sodium content was reduced 22% with an average of 1,181 mg of sodium.

Schenectady County Public Health Services worked with the county-operated nursing home to reduce the sodium content in meals offered through congregate meal sites and home-delivered meals programs to 500 older adults. The project goal was to reduce the average sodium content in meals served by 10% each year over 3-years, or by 30% total. The actual sodium content was reduced by an average of 10% per year from a high of 1,270 mg to 1,183 over three years. Some strategies used include: cooking with fresh vegetables, identifying products with less salt although not necessarily labeled "low sodium", and, conducting complete nutrition analysis on meals as ingredients change. Nutritional guidelines with targets for further sodium reduction in senior meals have been incorporated into the Schenectady County senior meal program's 2014 RFP. In addition, the Schenectady County project was able to partner with a number of restaurants who also agreed to produce lower sodium food and a healthier eating pattern.

NYS DOH received a new grant for the CDC Sodium Reduction Program which began on Monday, September 30th. For this program, the Albany County Department for Aging and the Steuben County Office for the Aging will be participating in the senior meals lower sodium initiative over the next three years.

Did You Know?
The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting sodium to less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) per day. However, Americans eat on average more than 3,400 mg of sodium per day. Sodium is one of the leading contributors to high blood pressure which in turn can lead to heart attack or stroke.