Salt intake, high blood pressure major concerns for large number of Americans

( — Excessive intake of salt has been in the news recently, and for good reason.

Dr. Amy Schultz, director of Allegiance Prevention and Community Health and medical director of the Jackson County Health Department, said 30 percent of Americans already have high blood pressure and another 37 percent have borderline or “prehypertensive” blood pressure.

“I don’t think people don’t realize the magnitude of what high blood pressure means,” said Schultz.

There is a great deal of talk about heart attacks and strokes, she said, and high blood pressure plays a huge role in them. Schultz said a third of all heart attacks and strokes are caused by high blood pressure. Plus half of all heart failure is caused by this issue.

The Centers for Disease Control recommend limiting sodium to less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) per day. Individuals who are 51 and older and those of any age who are African American or have hypertension, diabetes or chronic kidney disease should limit intake to 1,500 mg of sodium per day.

To put these numbers in perspective, the CDC website said a regular slice of frozen cheese pizza can range from 450 mg to 1200 mg. A restaurant salad can have more than 900 mg of sodium.

So how do we cut back on salt?

“It’s not necessarily using the table salt shaker less,” said Schultz.

It is “hidden” salt in foods we buy at the supermarket or eat in restaurants.

Never has a better case been made for homemade cooking because we know exactly what is in the foods we are eating.

But unless we fall into a high risk category, Schultz said it isn’t necessary to write down how much sodium we are ingesting each day, like some people write down calories or fat grams.

“From our perspective, it’s a matter of making substitutions for foods you normally eat that are high in sodium. This brings in the whole concept of eating more fruits and veggies and whole grains,” she said.

Most unprocessed meats — beef, veal, lamb, pork, fresh or frozen fish and poultry are other good options. But deli meats and packaged deli meats need to be analyzed because they can be high in sodium.

If you haven’t been faithful about reading food labels, make it a habit.

“Sodium content is always listed on the nutrition fact labels of packaged foods. Low sodium options are those with less than 140 mg per serving,” she said.

Many varieties of breads, for instance, are high in sodium. So read the label and choose one that fits the lower sodium criteria. Another option that some stories, such as Meijer, offer, is a “NuVal” system, according to Schultz.

“Foods with higher NuVal scores are healthier options and have less salt, sugar, and fat content,” she said.


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