Special Report: Killer Diet
FRESNO, Calif. (FOX26) —
A sprinkle here, and a dash there, doesn't hurt right?
Not according to 85-year-old Frankie Wilkinson.
"That means no salt on eggs, that was the toughest."
She hasn't had salt laying around her kitchen since the 1950's.
"When I was pregnant with my first child, my ankles were swelling and so my doctor says don't eat any more salt, so from that day on and that was in '51, 1951 that day on I never put salt on food," Wilkinson said.
She said she also looks for food low in sodium because doctors say believe it or not, it's the salt that's already in our food that hurts us.
"75 percent of the sodium we consume are actually in prepared foods," said Dr. Teresa Daniele, the chief cardiologist at UCSF in Fresno.
"Sodium intake is the silent killer if you will," Daniele said.
Daniele said it's hidden in every day foods.
"TV dinners or breads, it's hidden in our bread, any kind of our carbohydrates, croissants, muffins, cereals and we don't even realize it," she said.
Daniele said sodium is also pretty high at restaurants. She said you're only supposed to get 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day.
"You can think about that as one teaspoon size and that the entire day," she said.
But Daniele said many Americans are taking in much more than that, leading to high blood pressure or hypertension. She said before you notice, it could be too late.
We took a look at public nutritional information for some fast food chains and restaurants. A six-inch sandwich at Subway can start from 280 milligrams of sodium with a Veggie Delite and go all the way up to 1550 with a Spicy Italian Sandwich.
At McDonalds, a big mac can have 950 milligrams of sodium.
You can almost reach the daily limit by just eating an extra large grilled stuffed burrito with steak at Taco Bell. That has 2090 milligrams of sodium.
If you're heading to a restaurant with the family, say, Chili's, and you order a full rack of dry rub baby back ribs, it has 5120 milligrams, which is more than twice the daily limit.
Here's the catch. While all these numbers might seem straight forward, Daniele said reading labels or nutritional information can be confusing.
"It'll say 1300 milligrams per serving and when you look at the quantity there's actually two or three servings a package and so you would multiply that by two or three times," she said.
She said the problem is only going to get worse as Americans get bigger. The latest numbers from the Centers for Disease Control in 2016 said 25 percent of Californians over 18-years-old were obese. In 2015, almost 14 percent of kids were obese.
"We have an obesity epidemic really nationwide and things that come along with increase in weight are just things that high blood pressure and diabetes and high cholesterol 36 and so we are finding heart disease sooner and sooner," Daniele said.
What can you watch out for?
Doctors said swollen feet or hands, feeling bloated, headaches, or lingering headaches or blurred vision.
So as Wilkinson nears her 86th birthday, she said the low-sodium diet has helped her get here.
"I don't have to worry about my blood pressure going sky high," she said.
Knowing that, while salt adds taste, you better watch how much of it you're eating.