Monday, November 29, 2010

Salt and High Blood Pressure

If you have high blood pressure, your doctor may have told you to “watch the salt.” In essence, this means to eat less salt. For some people, it could mean eating a lot less commercially processed foods, which tend to be high in sodium.

Recommended Intake
According to the US Government, American adults should consume 2300 milligrams of sodium daily. That is equivalent to roughly one teaspoon of salt. People with high blood pressure are generally advised to keep their sodium intake even lower, to about 1500 milligrams. But it is easy to consume a lot more sodium and not even know it. That is because salt and other sodium containing products are widely used in cooking and preserving food.

Dining Out
Fast food places and other restaurants are notorious for the high levels of sodium in most of the foods they serve. That makes it very difficult to control your salt intake when dining out. Thus, your best bet is to prepare your own meals and snacks from scratch.

You will need to read the labels on packaged foods to be sure that you are not getting too much sodium. The ingredients list will list salt along with any other sodium-containing compound in the food. 

The Nutrition Panel is more specific. It tells how much sodium is in each serving of the food and shows the Daily Value (DV) for specific nutrients - in this case, sodium, This DV is given as a percent of the total recommended intake.

Tracking Your Intake
You can keep track of your total sodium intake by paying attention to the milligrams of sodium per serving or to the percentage shown per serving. If the package contains 4 servings, you will need to multiply the percent sodium per person by 4 to get the total percentage of the DV you will be getting if you eat the entire package. The same goes for calculating the total milligrams of sodium. A good rule of thumb is to avoid foods that contain more than 5 to 7 percent of the DV per serving.

Other Related Health Issues
There are many other things besides sodium that may cause you to develop high blood pressure, including obesity, stress, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and certain prescription drugs. Unfortunately, not everyone will have success by merely cutting back on the salt. If non-drug strategies do not work, you doctor is likely to put you on prescription drugs.  

If you have high blood pressure, pay attention to what you eat. Keeping your salt intake to about 1500 milligrams of sodium per day might help, particularly if you are salt-sensitive. For others, 2300 milligrams of sodium should be adequate.