Question: I recently was told I have high blood pressure and I need to cut way back on my salt intake and lose weight. Is cutting out salt really that important or can I just focus on losing weight? It seems like salt is in everything, how can I cut down on my salt intake?
Answer: Hypertension increases your risk of dying from a heart attack or stroke more than smoking, high cholesterol, obesity, or any other risk factor. And excess salt is a major cause of high blood pressure. So to answer your question, yes, it really is that important.
Cutting salt isn’t the only way to lower your blood pressure, getting more potassium also helps. Americans average far less than the 4,700 mg daily recommended intake of potassium. Eating a DASH diet, which is rich in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy foods, can lower your blood pressure as well as increase your potassium intake. Other recommendations would be losing weight or staying trim, daily exercise and limiting alcohol to no more than two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for woman. However, cutting salt is still very important.
It can be very frustrating to cut down on sodium because our food supply is loaded with salt. The easiest way to keep your sodium levels less than the recommended 2,000mg per day is to make your own.
??? Make your own breads, pizza, soups, sauces and salad dressings when you can.
??? Season your own rice or pasta.
??? Buy no-salt-added canned vegetables, beans, tuna and soup.
??? Substitute spice, herbs and salt-free blends instead of salt.
??? Avoid processed meats, like bacon, sausage, brats and lunch meat.
??? Eat lots of fruits and vegetables.
??? Avoid instant foods like pasta, rice or cereals, which usually include salt.
??? Ask restaurant servers to have the dish prepare without added salt.
??? Do not add salt to anything.
??? Read the food label and check sodium content.
It always is a little overwhelming at the beginning. Start by slowly changing one habit at a time, cutting out salt, increasing fruits and vegetables and increasing your daily exercise. By making these lifestyle changes and sticking to them, you should start to see some weight loss and a decline in your blood pressure readings.