Updated: Oct 1, 2020
What better topic to discuss than the one that plagues more and more African Americans as the years pass by. Not only more of us, but also younger African Americans. The one they call the "silent killer" because many times it isn't found until after causing years of havoc on the body.
I often volunteer at community events where I provide blood pressure screenings and education to participants on prevention and maintenance of high blood pressure. Even though, I have been doing these events for some time it still worries me each time when I find participants walking around with a blood pressure of 220/110 feeling fine and just enjoying their day symptom free.
Hypertension, better known as high blood pressure, is when long-term pressure of the blood against your artery walls is high enough that it weakens them. This can lead to heart disease, stroke or even death. Recommended blood pressure is about 120/80; elevated is higher than 140/90 and critical higher than 180/110.
You have probably heard before that the key to preventing or managing hypertension is a low sodium/salt diet. But the reality is that it is becoming increasingly difficult to accomplish this between the busyness of life, the ease of processed quick meals and the growing selection of foods offered to us.
So what can we do to help stay within the normal recommended values:
#1 Be mindful of your use of table salt and seasonings.
You know the ones we love: Sasoon, Lawry's, Adobo, etc. When talking to family members I usually hear something like “I don't use a lot of salt”, referring to cooking with table salt or sprinkling it over food at the dinner table. But sometimes the flavor we wish to accomplish is not the best gauge at telling us if our hand was too heavy when seasoning our foods.
#2 Balance your fresh food with your processed food intake to decrease your hidden salt content.
Another culprit is the increased hidden salt found in processed foods. Being conscious of this fact when selecting your 3 meals of the day can help move you in the right direction. For breakfast, you can choose fresh fruits, yogurt, boiled eggs or oatmeal instead of processed bacon and sausage. Replace frozen pancakes and waffles with homemade pancakes and waffles. For lunch, you can choose a multicolored salad with chicken breast, tuna or fish rather than throwing in the microwave a Marie Calender's pot pie or hot pocket. Also, try cutting back on deli meat and hot dogs as lunch selections. For dinner, try to cook a variety of fresh whole grains, greens and vegetables instead of quick fixes of canned, boxed or frozen foods.
#3 When eating processed foods pay attention to the salt content in each serving.
We all mindlessly eat without knowing what is in our food at times. Take for instance a recent experience with me. I have always had a love for pickles. It was so bad that I was that person, that each time I got a pickle I sung the popular Little Rascal songs by Porky and Buckwheat ".😊. Classic.
Sorry, just had a flashback moment....So as I was saying, the other day we visited my parents and they had a big jar of pickles sitting on the counter. I have to admit my love for pickles transferred to my boys so we all instantly got excited when we saw them. By the end of the night, my parents even sent us home with this big jar of pickles. We ate and enjoyed them. I remember thinking they tasted a little saltier than normal but I dismissed that thought at the time. Fast forward to a few days later, when I was sitting at the kitchen table and took the time to read it's nutrition label. I was surprised to find out that 1/4 pickle had 260 mg of sodium. That means that 1 pickle was 1,040 mg of salt😳.
The daily value salt intake is recommended to be <2300 mg per day. That means I just ate about half of my salt intake for the day with just one pickle. And most likely between my meals and snacks I overdid my salt intake for this day.
So, you can see how long term taking in excessive amounts of salt is not only easy with today's American diet but also can be detrimental to our body. We don't feel it. And unfortunately most don't have or ignore the classic signs of headaches, confusion, trouble walking, trouble seeing or weakness. I've seen patients along my nursing career that have had debilitating strokes that renders them unable to walk or talk. Or even worst, succumb to that life threatening stroke.
Being mindful of the salt content in products can be beneficial to your long term health status. Starting these quick tips a few times a week and slowly progressing until it becomes more frequent occurrences is a start to maintaining or lowering your blood pressure. This will help cut back on some of the hidden salt in your diet further decreasing your chances of developing hypertension.
This small incorporation can be a WHOLE world of a difference for your body.
Feel free to go over to my Instagram or Facebook page to follow some of my favorite fresh whole food meals I consume this week to keep my physical, emotional, environmental, spiritual and nutritional being in check.
Comment below and share some ways you balance your salt intake.