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5 Sodium-Reducing Tips for Healthy Blood Pressure
“Hi Tom”, said the nurse from a distance; “Is this a good time to take your blood pressure?” Tom cradled his arm around his chest, however the curiosity left him with only one possible response- “Sure”! Alarmed by his results, Tom firmly requested a retake of his blood pressure! After the second, third, and yes- fourth reading, Tom’s blood pressure still averaged at 150/90 mm hg. The Physician advised him to keep record of his daily sodium intake, along with adhering to a low-sodium diet. More often than not, high blood pressure is influenced by lifestyle and food choices, particularly foods containing high sodium content. The MayoClinic comments further regarding sodium intake citing; "The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting sodium to less than 2,300 mg a day — or 1,500 mg if you're age 51 or older, or if you are black, or if you have high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease."
Before discussing tips on sodium reduction, let’s define the various categories of sodium-modified diets. Depending on health needs physician’s may decrease sodium intake by 50%, while in more delicate circumstances sodium intake can go as low as 5mg per serving. The later is more common after cardiac surgical procedures or advanced heart disease, yet each individual’s health needs vary, and dietary modifications should be guided by a physician.
Here is a list on the different sodium-restricted diets, provided by the American Heart Association:
Sodium-free: Less than 5 milligrams of sodium per serving
Very low sodium: 35 milligrams or less per serving
Low sodium: 140 milligrams or less per serving
Reduced (or less) sodium: Usual sodium level is reduced by 25 percent per serving
Light (for sodium-reduced products): If the food is "low calorie," "low fat" and sodium is reduced by at least 50 percent per serving
Light in sodium: If sodium is reduced by at least 50 percent per serving
Sodium-Reducing Tips for Healthy Blood Pressure:
Tip #1: Avoid frozen meals, canned goods & soups, deli meats, condiments, and pickled foods. Processed meats, cheeses, & soy products also tend to have high sodium contents. Other examples include: frozen microwaveable dinners, hotdogs, Parmesan cheese, deli meats (ham, turkey, or chicken), soy burgers & patties, canned soups, pickles, garlic powder, and more.
Examples: Healthier alternatives are low-sodium soups, fresh fruits & veggies, grilled meats & fish, low-sodium soy products, and fresh garlic.
Tip #2: Opt for low-sodium or sodium-free foods when available. Many products listed above are accessible in low-sodium, reduced sodium, or sodium-free options. Watch for salted nuts, chips, and pretzels. Many of these tasty snacks are loaded with excess salt.
Examples: Sodium-free ketchup, reduced sodium boxed goods, raw nuts, non-salted pretzels, low-sodium soups, and introducing fresh seasonings and herbs are healthier substitutes.
Tip #3: Read product labels for nutritional contents and recommended daily values. Food packages contain nutrition facts that outline the amount of sodium per serving size. It’s important to determine how much sodium is found per serving, not just the percentage listed on the label. Also, consider ingredients high in sodium that may not be labeled as "salt" such as MSG (Monosodium glutamate), and baking soda (sodium bicarbonate).
Example: A product label on baked chips reads, “low-sodium chips with only 10mg of sodium per serving”. This product's advertisement sends a message of 10mg of sodium for a bag of chips, yet like most advertisements there's usually a catch. The serving size containing 10 mg of sodium can be a quarter, half, or the entire bag of chips. The key is to multiply the sodium content in the bag (10mg), times the serving amount per bag (e.g. two servings). In this scenario let's multiply 10mg by two, figuring the bag of chips contains a total of two servings. Meaning, if the entire bag of chips was consumed in one sitting that would amount to an intake of 20mg of sodium. This is quite different from the advertisement!
Tip #4: Skip the fast lane and fast food chains. If need arises to dine out, try ordering fresh fruits, vegetables, and nutritional meals low in condiments and salt.
Examples: Fresh fruits, salads light on the dressing (preferably vinaigrette or lemon dressings), natural smoothies, vegetables, and baked potatoes are great options. Also, some restaurants offer a heart-healthy menus or food items low in sodium. Keep an eye on the menu selections low in sodium, or consult with the restaurant manager for special accommodations.
Tip #5: Keep track of your daily sodium intake. Many gadgets and computers offer applications & tools to monitor nutritional intake. Whether it’s a high tech electronic device or a simple notepad, keep count of serving sizes and sodium intake on a daily basis.
Example: Jot down the amount of sodium consumed per serving, per meal, per day. If you consumed 1 bag of chips, and a turkey sandwich for lunch write: 1 bag of chips= 20 mg of sodium + 1 turkey sandwich 250 mg of sodium= 270mg of total sodium intake.
* All information shared in this article should be discussed with your healthcare provider prior to incorporating any suggestions. This article is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide advice or direct client decisions.
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