It’s National Heart Month (February 2012) and being one of the most important organs of our body we should always be looking for ways to keep our heart healthy. One of the main risk factors of heart disease is high blood pressure. One quarter of adults have high blood pressure, which tends to lead to coronary heart disease, many of us do not know we have it as it is known as the ‘silent killer’. So having regular check-ups is advisable.
What is high blood pressure? High blood pressure is too much strain is being put on the heart to pump blood around the body. If this strain is too high, this means your heart id being overworked which tends to lead to other heart problems as well.
On food labels salt can also be seen as sodium, 2.5g of sodium is equal to 6g of salt. To make sure you the food does not contain too much have a look at the labels and if the salt content is more than 1.25g/100g you know that it is too much, or if the sodium content is more than 0.5g/100g. Reading labels is very important, it is a way of educating ourselves and knowing what we are putting in our body as well as our families.
Many of us do not see the hidden salt in our food, especially in processed foods which some of us depend on in our sedentary lifestyle. We should only be having 6g of salt per day which is about 1 teaspoon yet studies have shown that we are having well over double the recommended allowance.
Here is a list of some of the hidden salt in our foods:
· Instant noodles and pasta packets
· Canned and packet soups
· Baked beans
· Processed foods
· Ready meals
With everyone trying to be healthy, manufacturers are offering some healthy options, for example you get low salt and low sugar tomato ketchup. Use the traffic light labelling to help you choose your foods. That 10 second check will save you a lot of health problems you may not be aware that you are at risk of.
Once you start weaning yourself off the unhealthy processed food and you have it after a while you can actually taste the excess salt and you begin to wonder why you didn't realise it before. This happened to me, as in my college days, I used to have the instant noodles for lunch as it was quick and easy, but I stopped having them and later on I tasted it was shocked by the salty taste that I didn't realise before. It’s all about retraining your taste buds.
Here are some other ways to reduce your salt content and protect yourself from high blood pressure:
· Avoid salty snacks like nuts and crisps, have fruit and vegetables instead.
· Add less salt to your meals when cooking and do not put salt at the table for others to add extra.
· Add herbs, spices, lemon juice, garlic, pepper to add flavour to your food instead of salt.
· Avoid or limit ready meals and processed foods.
· Always read the food labels and opt for low-salt options.
· Keep a look out for cooking sauces and jars which can have high salt content. Try making your own instead.
There are other factors which lead to high blood pressure as well, such as, exercise, smoking, alcohol, obesity, so working on them will also help.
Source: BHF and NHS Online 2012
20th February 2012