The Aging Man tackles the silent killer, high blood pressure, head on. As always, follow the advice of your own personal physician. This post is informational and is not to be considered medical advice. Definitely don’t mess with your medication without your doctor’s instructions! There are several factors of high blood pressure that we can change. These include: healthy weight, limiting alcohol consumption, limiting sodium intake, working out daily, and, and reducing stress (Webmd). The focus of this blog post is fighting high blood pressure by decreasing salt consumption.
What does research say? The research reports that if overall sodium intake was reduced in the US, over 10 million cases of high blood pressure could be prevented (CDC). Or, consider that 30% of hypertension cases are associated with increased salt consumption and 20% with low dietary potassium (WHLeague). Quoting directly from the American Heart association: “The American Heart Association recommends no more than 2,300 milligrams (mgs) a day and an ideal limit of no more than 1,500 mg per day for most adults, especially for those with high blood pressure. Even cutting back by 1,000 mg a day can improve blood pressure and heart health.” Get out your measuring spoons. One teaspoon contains 2300 mg of sodium, the max daily recommended, limit! It’s the Tsp abbreviation, not Tbsp (that’s Tablespoon- that’s the larger spoon.. lol)
What can we do?
Here are my tips that have been working for me:
Never add salt to your prepared food.
Just don’t. Like leaving the bathroom without washing your hands. Just don’t. This is the easiest way to begin to reduce sodium. Quit whining about taste, suck it up. You will gradually get used to the taste of less salted food. As a matter of fact, I’m deeply disappointed when I order a pizza or go out to eat and I’m disgusted by the over salted taste of the food. This doesn’t always happen with restaurant food, but it does and I’m amazed at how normal that used to taste. Remember your focus- a better future. You will get used to how food should taste while not adding any table salt.
Minimize salt used to cook.
If you’re single, you cook. If you’re married, you cook. I’m going to give you the key to reducing salt consumption. Ready? Here it is. Herbs and Spices. There is a plethora of spices with the most familiar to us being pepper. To name some others: allspice, almond extract, basil, bay leaves, caraway seeds, chives, cider vinegar, cinnamon, curry powder, dill, garlic (no, not garlic salt…), ginger, lemon juice, mace, dry mustard, nutmeg, onion powder (no, not onion salt….), paprika, parsley, peppermint extract, pimiento, rosemary, sage, savory, thyme, turmeric. If you think your food is bland without salt, learn to use herbs and spices. Most of them have significant health benefits for a double health benefit!
For a nice start on which herbs and spices to put on what visit this page from the American Heart Association. Be sure to download their fact sheet on limiting sodium. I’ll be sure to do some blog posts on what I do with herbs and spices in and on my food.
Rarely each lunch meat.
For that matter, processed meat in general like hot dogs, sausages, bacon, chicken patties, etc. On occasion, I just absolutely have to have that deli made sub sandwich from a real deli, not the chains. Knowing that I’ve consumed every morsel of handheld deliciousness, I am intentional about minimizing intake of any other salty food that day. So, a deli sandwich for lunch and a frozen pizza for dinner puts you way over daily salt consumption. The biggest change I made was going from being a daily lunch meat eater to being a rarely lunch meat eater, I just don’t buy it in the store anymore. I love sandwiches but I now have a chicken breast or self-seasoned pork loin that I’ve cooked myself in the fridge that I slice off to make sandwiches. I also eat less sandwiches for lunch overall.
Rarely eat canned food that isn’t reduced sodium or unsalted.
If you only eliminate adding table salt, this will not be enough. Most of the salt we consume is in the food already that we consume daily with nearly three quarters hidden in canned, processed staples such as soups, condiments, and even tomato sauce (Heart.org). From now on choose low sodium, reduced sodium, and unsalted versions of food you eat.
Here’s some perspective. A 10.75 oz can of regular tomato soup, the traditional Campbell’s soup size, has 2.5 servings with 480mg of sodium. I can eat an entire can of soup no problem, but recently I’ve started to split it which is very hard to do. That can is just the right amount of soup for one nice bowlful for dinner along with something else. So, if I eat that bowlful of soup, I’ve had 1200mg of sodium. Given that the ideal amount of sodium is 1500mg per day, this is very little food for our sodium allowance. At least if I have a reduced version of the soup, I’m further away from my daily allowance. Or better yet, I’ve made homemade soup with no added sodium. You get the idea.
Rarely, if at all, eat food that comes from a bag, carton, or box.
Think about it. This is true for many, many reasons: trans-fats, chemicals, preservatives, cholesterol, and sodium. Just say no most of the time. Yes, I eat out occasionally and occasionally eat things out of a box or bag from the freezer, but way, way less than I used to.
I start by not purchasing much in the way of frozen meals, frozen fried food, etc. I make more of my food than I used to, I make food ahead of time, I just make it fit in my day and week because it’s a priority. That way, when it comes time to eat out with family, or a date, or a special occasion, I can really enjoy it because I haven’t been eating that way all week. For example, sometimes you just have a taste for a burger. Instead of stopping at a fast-food joint or restaurant like it’s no big deal, as in the past, I stop in to a store and then make the burger myself at home. I can control what’s in that burger and what I put on it so it ends up being a better burger and better for me.
Increase your potassium.
Remember that twenty percent of hypertension cases are associated with low dietary potassium (Science Daily). Therefor, axcording to the professionals, individuals should include more high-potassium foods like bananas and veggies while lowering their sodium intake.
What does potassium do anyway? It helps remove sodium for one! Additionally, it helps relax the walls of your vessels which will help your heart health. Both functions aid in helping your blood pressure. The recommended amount of daily potassium is 4700mg. But, if you have kidney disease consult with your physician on your recommended amount which may be lower. For perspective, a medium sized banana has 422mg of potassium and an avocado has 690 mg.
Here are some potassium rich foods (for a more complete list you can visit (webmd.): potatoes, sweet potatoes, leafy greens, orange juice, tomato juice, tuna, halibut, lentils, kidney beans, meat, poultry, whole wheat bread. A habit I’ve been getting into is if I know I’ve had a higher intake of salt than I would have liked I will eat up some potassium rich foods like a banana or sweet potato.. In my quest to improve my health future as an aging man, decreasing salt intake is one of only two food topics that I’ve chosen to focus on. This has served to drastically improve my eating behavior.
Action to take
Being intentional about salt intake has eliminated many poor diet choices and serves to limit my portions of other foods that I like. So instead of focusing on a list of forbidden foods, I focus on the idea of minimizing salt consumption to eliminate it’s nasty health results. This has been highly effective for me! Begin by eliminating boxed and bagged food. Try it!
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