February is Heart Month, a time for us all to think about heart health for ourselves and those we love. Heart health is complicated and many factors contribute to it, but many of those factors are within our control.
High blood pressure is a leading cause of heart disease and stroke. One in every six Americans has high blood pressure and for certain groups the rate is even higher. Two out of every five African Americans have high blood pressure. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), people with high blood pressure are 4 times more likely to die from a stroke and 3 times more likely to die from heart disease, compared to those with normal blood pressure.
So what can you do?
- Ask your doctor what your blood pressure should be and check it every few months. You can have it checked at your doctor or at your local pharmacy. If you have high blood pressure you may want to have a blood pressure cuff at home for regular monitoring.
- If you smoke, quit! Quitline Iowa can help. If you don’t smoke, don’t start.
- If your doctor prescribes blood pressure medicine, take it as directed.
- Reduce the amount of sodium you eat. Follow these steps from the CDC to reduce sodium in your diet.
- Cook more food at home and eat less food from restaurants.
- Buy fresh, frozen (no sauce) or no salt added canned vegetables.
- Buy low sodium or reduced sodium versions of products like soups, sauces and ready-made dishes like flavored rice or pasta.
- Compare Nutrition Facts labels on food packages.
In next week’s blog we’ll feature some of the foods that sneak in way more sodium than you might expect! What new habit can you start this week that will make your heart happy and healthy?
Do you or someone you know have high blood pressure or cardiovascular disease? It is very likely your answer is “yes”, given that cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. High blood pressure affects approximately 1 in 3 adults in the United States and more than half of Americans with high blood pressure do not have it under control. Foods high in sodium are a big concern for managing blood pressure.
Sodium plays an important role in regulating fluid balance, nerve function and muscle contraction within the body. We need it, but most of us get too much. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that most people take in no more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day (about 1 teaspoon). However, about half of us should only consume 1500 mg or 2/3 teaspoon. The reduced recommendation is for the following people:
- African Americans
- Anyone over age 51
- Those diagnosed with high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease
The average American consumes almost twice the recommended amount. Too much sodium is not healthy, but have you ever wondered what the science is behind this? Here’s a quick science lesson!
When an excessive amount of sodium is consumed, there is an increased number of particles in the blood stream, water moves from the cells to the blood stream trying to create a fluid balance. This increased volume circulating in the blood stream increases pressure on artery walls and makes your heart work harder. High blood pressure is also called hypertension and it is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke.
How can you reduce the amount of sodium you consume daily?
- Don’t add salt to your food.
- Choose frozen or fresh vegetables as opposed to canned.
- Choose low-sodium or no salt added versions of canned products. Many are the same price as their higher sodium counterparts.
- Rinse canned vegetables and beans.
- Cook foods from scratch. Restaurant food and convenience meals tend to have more sodium than those you prepare yourself.
- Experiment with adding flavor to dishes by using dried herbs and spices such as basil, thyme, parsley or cayenne pepper instead of salt.
Have fun with it! If your new year’s resolution is to achieve a healthier lifestyle, reducing your sodium intake is an easy way to work toward that goal.