1. The doctor said my blood pressure is a little high. Do I need to take salt out from my diet now? Jane - Bloomfield, NJ Dear Jane: Blood pressure is force your blood exerts against the artery walls. When your blood pressure runs high, it means your heart has to pump harder to get the blood throughout the body. Blood pressure is considered high when it is 140/90 and higher. You are lucky to have found out about your condition early because high blood pressure, or hypertension, often goes unnoticed. It's nickname is "the silent killer" and if not properly treated, it can cause heart disease and stroke. You ask if it would be beneficial to reduce the amount of salt you use? I believe it would be beneficial & it definitely wouldn't harm you. But will reducing your salt intake lower your blood pressure?....Maybe - maybe not!
I wish I could give you a more definite answer but ..... Although salt, or sodium chloride, has long been blamed for high blood pressure, or hypertension, the research in this area is still very controversial. Salt itself does not appear to be an actual cause of high blood pressure but it has been shown to aggravate the condition in may people with hypertension. When you eat foods high in salt, you tend to throw off the ratio of sodium to other electrolytes. These electrolytes then may increase the blood pressure. A few studies have found that only about 1/4 of people with high blood pressure (or hypertension) are "salt-sensitive". This means that if these 25% were to cut down on their salt intake, their blood pressure would decrease. Unfortunately, the other 75% would not see any change in their blood pressure, regardless of how much slat they consumed. The only way to know if you are "salt-sensitive" is to cut back on your salt intake and see if there is an improvement.
No one needs extra salt in their diet so I would definitely recommend cutting back on your intake or at least trying to eat your food without using the salt shaker. Salt is the most highly used seasoning so you are probably getting more than you realize in the foods you eat on a daily basis. This is especially true if you tend to eat processed and packaged foods, such as crackers, cereals, canned goods and condiments.
The factors which have been shown to play a definite role in the development of high blood pressure are:
increase in age
increase in body weight
decrease in physical activity (i.e.: exercise)
An increase in emotional stress may also play a part but his is still questionable. Since you can't do anything about growing older, it would definitely be beneficial for you to lose a few pounds if you are overweight, engage in some form of daily exercise and stress reducing activities and try to eat a healthful, balanced diet. The most recent dietary recommendation for high blood pressure is the DASH diet. It is a low-fat diet which consists of mainly vegetables, fruit, high fiber grains and low-fat diary foods. A diet such as this would help increase the electrolyte ratio I mentioned above, specifically the ratio of sodium to calcium, magnesium and potassium. Fortunately, there are so many ways you can flavor your foods without using the salt shaker. The trick is to experiment with the array of spices available. Try flavoring your foods with garlic, onion, paprika, oregano, saffron, lemon pepper, thyme, cinnamon, curry.... and the list goes on.
You'll be amazed at the variety of flavors you can come up with and at the same time you will have eliminated a large portion of salt from your daily diet. Good luck! Dr. M