(Originally posted 3/20/2013, libbysfitnutrition.com)
Hypertension is a problem characterized by high blood pressure. A normal blood pressure reading should be less than 120/80. Pre-hypertensive is 120-139/80-90, and a hypertensive person has a blood pressure reading of more than 140/90.
This pressure takes a toll on the heart and circulatory system, which can lead to cardiac arrest, aneurysm, metabolic syndrome, weakened or narrow blood vessels, stroke, and trouble with memory or understanding.
Primary hypertension is generally hereditary, while secondary hypertension may stem from kidney problems, adrenal gland tumors, birth defects, certain medications, such as birth control pills, cold remedies, decongestants, over-the-counter pain relievers and some prescription drugs, and illegal drugs, such as cocaine and amphetamines (Mayo Clinic).
Treatment comes in two forms used simultaneously, medication and lifestyle.
Lifestyle changes include adopting a heart-healthy, low-sodium (less than 2300 mg sodium/day) and low-fat diet.
Switching to a low-sodium diet is a challenge, especially in the western world where so much food is processed and flavored with salt. Simply taking the salt shaker off the table is not enough (though it does help). Low-sodium versions of food, choosing foods naturally low in sodium (fresh, unprocessed fruits and veggies), reading food labels for sodium content and serving size, and learning to use herbs and spices instead of salt and sauces to flavor foods are all important in making a change in lifestyle.
The label says…..........what it means
Sodium/salt-free: Less than 5mg / serving
Very low sodium: 35 mg or less / serving
Low sodium: 140 mg or less / serving
Low-sodium meal: 140 mg or less / 100g
Reduced or less sodium: >25% less sodium than regular version
Light in sodium: 50% less than original version
Unsalted or no salt added: No salt added during processing (not a low sodium food)
Foods that are naturally low in sodium are fresh (not processed); fruits and veggies, dried legumes/grains made without salt, unsalted nuts/nut butter, and low-fat yogurt (but be sure to read labels!) are generally low-sodium choices. For other foods be sure to check the nutrition facts label, and research foods and menus from the company producing/preparing it.
Click HERE to see an infographic on what 1200mg of sodium looks like in everyday foods, from healthline.com
Libby is a Registered Dietitian focusing on student eating disorder treatment and prevention. She is working on the central coast to create wellness in individuals and the community.
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