High blood pressure (hypertension) is a chronic illness in which your blood pressure readings are constantly 140/90 and above. If your pressure rises and remains high for an extended period it can lead to stroke, heart attack, heart failure, arterial aneurysm or kidney failure.
In the majority of cases, people with high blood pressure must look forward to managing the disease for the duration. There are no known cures for the disease. However, it is widely accepted that dietary choices can play a major role in managing and even lowering your blood pressure.
The Salt (Sodium Chloride) Effect
One of the major threats against maintaining a normal blood pressure is very prominent in our kitchen cupboard and most of the foods we eat – salt (sodium chloride).
Your kidneys are the main organs for removing waste fluids from your blood. Through the process of osmosis, using a precise balance of potassium and sodium, fluids are drawn through a wall of cells and deposited in the bladder for excretion.
Digesting too much salt adversely affects this balance which results in your body retaining too much fluid. This affects the kidney’s filtering ability, leading to toxic buildup (kidney disease) while at the same time increasing pressure on the blood vessels.
The natural response by the body to this increase in pressure is to strengthen the walls of the arteries. Though this response may appear to be beneficial, what actually happens is that the walls become thicker while the passages become narrower increasing the pressure on the blood vessels.
If left untreated the walls eventually become clogged or they burst. The kidney, heart and brain will be starved of oxygen and all other necessary nutrients resulting in a stroke or heart attack.
Put The Brakes On Your sodium intake
Healthy arteries reduce your risk of high blood pressure, a proven method of achieving this is to limit your daily salt intake. Let’s start by removing the table salt from the cupboard.
Next up, restrict your consumption of processed foods such as smoked and cured meats, canned and frozen foods, soups and condiments. All of the aforementioned products tend to be high in sodium content.
Next – salt substitutes, these are not taboo but must be used with caution since they contain a certain percentage of sodium. Check with your healthcare professional or doctor as to how much sodium you’re permitted (if you’re already suffering from high blood pressure) and read the labels carefully for the sodium percentage.
The US Food & Drug Administration has provided the undermentioned guidelines for persons who need to monitor their salt intake:
- Low Sodium - the item has 140 milligrams or less sodium per serving.
- Very Low Sodium - the item has 35 milligrams or less sodium per serving.
- Salt-Free - the item has 5 milligrams or less sodium per serving
- Light Sodium - the item has at least 50 percent less sodium than the original version.
- Reduced Sodium - the item has at least 25 percent less than the original version.
The fact that potassium works in conjunction with sodium in the process of osmosis means that the effects of an overabundance of sodium can be counteracted by an influx of potassium.
It is strongly suggested that persons with hypertension eat lots of fruits and vegetables – food sources which are rich in potassium and other health-enhancing vitamins, minerals and fibres. A diet containing at least five portions/80 grams of fruits and vegetables per day can substantially reduce your blood pressure.
All meats, fresh fruits and vegetables are good sources of potassium. The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet, a diet plan rich in fruits, vegetables, and low or non-fat dairy, comes highly recommended for anyone suffering from hypertension.
Sodium in and of itself is not a danger, in fact, it is essential for good health, the danger lies in too much. A daily limit of 2 to 3 grams is considered acceptable, however, if you suffer from hypertension you should consult your doctor as to what’s safe for you.
The higher your blood pressure the greater will be the strain on your arteries and other vital organs. The safest way to prevent this assault on your system is by limiting your sodium intake and following a healthy diet.
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