Are you liable to hypertension? You know, the high blood pressure thing, with “headaches, fatigue, dizziness, blurred vision, facial flushing, transient insomnia or difficulty sleeping due to feeling hot or flushed…” as the Wikipedia article reports. One in five of us could be facing hypertension, with no reliable way of knowing who’s at risk till a blood pressure test says you’ve got it. Worried? Then there’s some good advice for you just released.
At a recent medical conference on hypertension, the results of a medical trial were explained. A group of patients with ‘treatment-resistant’ hypertension (ie, they couldn’t get rid of it) were put alternately on high salt and low salt diets. The results were remarkable. Just by reducing their salt intake, they achieved almost immediate seriously good reductions in the all-important systolic blood pressure reading.
So what ought we to learn from this? First, if you know that you’re not one of the 1 in 5 liable to hypertension, you can stop reading here. But how do you know that? No-one’s invented a reliable predictive test yet! So you’d better assume that you might get hypertension some time in the future, if you don’t have it already.
To lessen your risk, the hypertension study shows that even with chronic sufferers, the most sensible precaution is to reduce your salt intake.
Here are five pointers to reducing salt intake reliably and painlessly:
Salt is addictive. So you might have found that over the years, you’ve added more and more to your food. There’s no need, though. It’s just a dangerous indulgence. Don’t forget that, and wean yourself off added salt
Your actual need for salt is very low. On any usual Western or Eastern diet, it’s impossible to get too little salt. So you can reduce your salt intake even to silly low limits without any health risk. The only exception is a temporary one — when you’re sweating gallons (eg, steam engine coal stoker, marathon runner), in which case you should add a pinch to each extra litre of water you drink.
ANY added salt is unneccessary. So don’t. Just eat the salt that’s already in your food.
Almost all commercial meals, snacks and drinks have way too much added salt . As far as hypertension is concerned, you’ll have to avoid them all, unless the salt/sodium content on the label says ‘trace’ or under 0.2%.
You excrete salt very quickly. So an occasional meal with a salty ingredient is OK unless your doctor says otherwise. Say, twice a week at most. I’m thinking here of salt meat and fish (including bacon and ham), salty sauces and condiments like soy sauce, and any ready meal.
Painlessly? Well, you will have to re-educate your palate to regard low-salt foods as normal — which it is. You can either choose to do it right off, or wean yourself off salt addiction slowly. Of course, you may be happy to be addicted — in which case, why are you reading this article?
I took the quick way, and it worked fine. Now I eat salty food only on occasion, and I don’t get any craving to eat more. In fact, really salty food now gags me. As it should.
My previous article on Salt and Health will give you more help. The Reuters story (http://www.reuters.com/article/healthNews/idUSCOL97079020080919) that prompted me to write can also tell you more. The link to the conference site is now removed, but a web trawl should find it.