Skip to main content

Common Challenges: Blood pressure - What’s salt got to do with it?

High blood pressure, otherwise known as hypertension, can be a silent, chronic disease.  Blood pressure readings explain the pressure that is built upon the wall of your arteries.  The higher the reading, the more pressure you have against the wall of your arteries and the harder it is for your arteries to pump blood which puts stress on your organs.  Hypertension is a risk factor for stroke, heart attacks, heart failure, and is the leading cause for kidney failure.

Mild to moderate hypertension can go without symptoms. Since most of us only check our blood pressure at our annual physicals, many can go without a diagnosis for years.  Once the hypertension is advanced symptoms include headache, drowsiness, confusion, nosebleeds, nausea, and vomiting.  A diagnosis for hypertension is usually given once three separate readings of blood pressure are high.  It is recommended to get all readings at least a week apart along with a complete medical exam. Normal blood pressure reading is 120/80 mmHG or less.

If you’ve been diagnosed with hypertension or know someone who has hypertension there has most likely been an instruction for a low sodium diet, a very general instruction that can be hard to follow and initiate a lot of questions.  Does a low sodium diet include salt?  What’s the difference between sodium and salt? Am I supposed to watch both? I’m so confused!

Salt or sodium chloride is made up of 60% chlorine and 40% sodium.  A teaspoon of salt consists of 2400 mg of sodium.  So when you look at the food labels and you read the sodium level this also contains the amount of salt in the item.  In addition, it means that when the American Heart Association is recommending to aim for a daily intake of 1500 mg of sodium or less, they are talking about a little over a half teaspoon of salt a day.   How’s that for a visual and why are they recommending such a low intake?  Well, the more salt you eat, the more water your body retains and as your body works to excrete the excess salt from your body, your blood pressure can rise.

Here’s some quick ways you can decrease your salt consumption:
·   Add less salt when cooking
·   Avoid adding salt at the table
·   Utilize salt replacements like Mrs. Dash or Pleasonings Seasonings
·   Buy fresh or plain frozen vegetables, instead of canned vegetables
·   Use fresh poultry, fish, and lean meat, rather than canned or processed varieties
·   Buy low- or reduced-sodium or no-salt-added versions of foods
·   Limit smoked, cured, or processed beef, pork, poultry, and fish

The following foods are generally high in sodium:
Canned foods                                     Salted popcorn                        Smoked meats
Frozen dinners and meals                   Snack mixes                            Tomato sauce
Ready-to-eat breakfast cereals            Vegetable juice                       Potato Chips
Cheese                                                 Bacon fat                                Pretzels
Cured and processed meats                Salt pork                                  Nuts
Ham hock                                            Ketchup                      Mustard
Prepared salad dressings                     Soy Sauce                   Canned gravies and sauce
Canned gravies and sauces                 Barbecue Sauce           Dried gravy mixes

Now that you are familiar with a decreased sodium and salt diet, let’s talk lifestyle change. You guessed it, in addition to focusing on your affair with salt and sodium, losing weight is key. Research proves that a 5% weight loss can bring early stage hypertension back to normal range.  That is only nine pounds for someone who weighs 180. 

If you or someone you know has hypertension, it’s worth it to work with a registered dietitian.  He or she can estimate your sodium and salt intake per day and also assess if weight loss should be a priority.  Don’t wait too late; this precursor is silent and destructive.  Be well!

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Make it Happen

Parents, I see you. I see you putting everyone else's needs in front of yours. I see your dark circles under your eyes, your gray hair, that your wasting away, or that you've collectively gained weight over the years. It's time to put yourselves first because if you don't take care of yourself you won't be around to keep taking care of everyone else.

So often friends, acquaintances, or clients say to me, "I don't know how you find the time to exercise." "How can you take the time away from everything else and get away to exercise?" "I wish I could actually focus on myself and exercise."

Exercise to me is self care. It produces endorphins faster than any other activity I engage in. It  reduces my stress, keeps me healthy, increases flexibility, and gives me more energy to be on point with my busy kids and my demanding job.

My exercise isn't extravagant and it doesn't take too much time. Here's my secret. I always work e…

The Truth Behind Clean Eating

A quick trip to the grocery store or chain restaurant and you will likely be bombarded with the concept of “clean eating” foods that claim to be “organic”, “natural”, “non GMO”, and “gluten free”. There is also the laundry list of foods you should avoid such as high fructose corn syrup, processed foods, and various toxins or chemicals. As a consumer it can be very overwhelming and intimidating to choose which foods are best for you.
While clean eating is not a new sensation, it has become increasingly popular in part due to misinformation on social media. Fear mongering is the latest marketing strategy in which companies are deliberately arousing fear in consumers to help sell their product. For example, products claim to be non-GMO when in fact it is not produced as a GMO food in the first place. There are only 8 genetically modified crops commercially prepared in the U.S. Products that have never contained gluten have a “Gluten free” label on them. Then there is the irrational conce…

Why this Dietitian Cares more about your PREbiotics than your PRObiotic Pill

Clients ask me all the time what I think of their brand of probiotic or which one they should start taking.  Studies have shown that probiotic supplements definitely have their place in certain circumstances (that’s a whole other blog for another time), but my bigger concern is... what are you feeding the ones you have already?
“Probiotics” is just a fancy word for helpful bacteria.  Even if you don’t take a pill, you have these little guys in your digestive track.  The problem right now is that current probiotic supplements can only include the bacteria that scientists have been able to 1) identify and 2) put in a pill without them dying right away.  
However, we (probiotic and non-probiotic users alike) have so many different strains of bacteria (somewhere in the neighborhood of billions) who do so much good for us such as make vitamins and help battle bad bacteria.  BUT - just like us - they need to eat!  A recent study showed that a diet high in protein is not in their best interest…