Sodium is an electrolyte -- a particle that conducts electricity -- responsible for maintaining fluid balance in your body. Sodium is not quite the same thing as salt, which is actually sodium chloride and contains 40 percent sodium. Whatever the source, knowing the recommended daily sodium allowance is vital to maintaining good health because excess sodium intake is associated with increased risk for high blood pressure and heart disease, according to MayoClinic.com. The Institute of Medicine recommends different daily sodium allowances based on your age and health. Always speak to your physician about the appropriate RDA for you.
Ages 14 to 50
People who are between 14 and 50 years old should consume no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day, according to MayoClinic.com and the Institute of Medicine. This is the upper limit for intake -- the adequate intake limit is at least 1,500 milligrams per day. To put this in perspective, a tablespoon of table salt contains 2,325 milligrams of sodium. However, the average American gets significantly more sodium in his daily diet -- about 3,400 milligrams of sodium per day.
Ages 51 and Older
As you age, you are more susceptible to conditions such as high blood pressure or heart failure. These conditions are associated with increased sensitivity to sodium intake, according to the Institute of Medicine. For this reason, men and women ages 51 and older will likely need to take in less sodium per day than their younger counterparts, about 1,500 milligrams per day or less, according to MayoClinic.com.
Health Condition Exceptions
In addition to age, other medical condition factors may change your sodium RDA. These include having high blood pressure, heart failure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease, according to MayoClinic.com. If you have kidney disease, your body’s ability to filter sodium is affected, which can lead to sodium buildup if you consume excess amounts. This can lead to increased risk for high blood pressure and swelling. High blood pressure is associated with increased sodium intake because sodium attracts water, which can thicken the blood. African-American individuals also are at increased risk for high blood pressure and may need to limit sodium intake. The RDA for at-risk populations is 1,500 milligrams, according to MayoClinic.com.
Sodium and Your Diet
Processed and frozen foods are a major source of sodium in the American diet because sodium is added as a flavor enhancer and preservative. Examples include pizza, pasta, cheese and fast foods, such as french fries. Other foods, such as milk, meat and shellfish, naturally contain sodium. This means you will likely get enough sodium in your daily diet without salting your food. Whenever possible, choose low-sodium or no-sodium-added foods to keep your sodium intake low. MayoClinic.com also recommends using no more than 1/4 teaspoon of salt in your cooking on a daily basis.
Rachel Nall began writing in 2003. She is a former managing editor for custom health publications, including physician journals. She has written for The Associated Press and "Jezebel," "Charleston," "Chatter" and "Reach" magazines. Nall is currently pursuing her Bachelor of Science in Nursing at the University of Tennessee.