Harvard Health Letter Reports Guidelines About Water, Sodium and Potassium Intake

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Harvard Health Publications

The May issue of Harvard Health Letter reports on the Institute of Medicine's (IOM) guidelines, focusing specifically on water, sodium and potassium. Dr. Kenneth Minaker, a geriatrician at Massachusetts General Hospital and a longtime member of the Health Letter's editorial board, was a member of the committee that wrote the guidelines.

The article emphasizes the importance of measuring total daily water intake. All the water in beverages and foods, including soft drinks, salads, and fruits and vegetables, should count toward your daily intake. According to the IOM, men should get the equivalent of 15.5 cups of water daily in food and drinks, and women should get 11.5 cups.

The adequate intake of sodium is 1,300 milligrams (mg) for people ages 50- 70 and 1,200 mg for those 71 and older. According to Harvard Health Letter, the average American adult consumes 3,000-4,000 mg of sodium daily-well over the recommended value. Processed foods or those high in preservatives should be eaten in moderation in order to reduce sodium intake.

The third nutrient the May issue focuses on is potassium. Guidelines suggest most adults should have 4,700 mg, but surveys show Americans consume 1,000-2,000 mg less than that. Potassium-rich foods include fruits and vegetables like bananas, mushrooms, spinach, and almonds. Potassium helps offset high sodium intake by triggering more sodium excretion by the kidneys. Reducing your sodium intake while increasing your potassium intake is an effective way to lower your blood pressure.

Harvard Health Letter is available from Harvard Health Publications, the publishing division of the Harvard Medical School. You can subscribe to Harvard Health Letter at www.health.harvard.edu/health or 877-649-9457.

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