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Tackling High Blood Pressure with Reduced Salt

Posted Apr 24 2009 7:22am

Researchers estimate that about 30 percent of adults in the United States are salt-sensitive, which means that their blood pressure is raised when they consume more sodium. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 2,400 milligrams of sodium per day — a little more than the a teaspoon of table salt (2,300 milligrams). The average American consumes 6,000 to 8,000 milligrams of sodium per day.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is often called the "silent killer" because it does not typically cause any noticeable symptoms. By any name, high blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease. Over 25 percent of adult Americans suffer from high blood pressure. And the older you are, the more likely you are to have it. In addition to being a risk factor for heart disease, high blood pressure is a major risk factor for stroke and kidney failure as well. For optimal health, you should strive to keep your blood pressure below 120/80 mm Hg.

Your eating patterns and food choices can help you prevent high blood pressure or control it if you have it. Cutting back on two nutrients and eating more of many others can help you reduce your blood pressure:

  • Cut back on added salt and salty foods.

  • Reduce the total amount of fat you eat.

  • Eat more fruits and vegetables — a lot more.

You should still watch your sodium intake even if your blood pressure isn't high. Too much salt is not beneficial for anyone, and cutting back may be beneficial for many.

Many recipes list salt as an optional ingredient. Keep in mind that the sodium nutrition information provided for recipes where salt is optional is based on no added salt. Most chefs argue that adding salt provides a depth of flavor and interest to a recipe that no other ingredient can match. However, in many cases, you can use less salt without negatively affecting the taste of the final dish. Research has shown that people can lose their preference for salt simply by cutting back little by little. If you usually add ten shakes of salt to a pot of homemade soup, try using seven or eight shakes the next time you make it, continuing to reduce the amount of salt you add every time you make it, until you get used to the taste of foods made with less salt.

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