How often do we check the ingredients or the nutrition label on the foods that we eat?
You’ll probably find that salt is one top of the ingredients in the list for many of them.
Chances are, many of the contents in our cupboard contain a very high amount of salt. I decided to see for myself and I didn’t have to look far. Cans and cans of corned beef (of different brands!), canned tuna, sardines, instant soup, Vienna sausages, Boy Bawang, and much more – all have very high sodium contents.
Could these be affecting my blood pressure?
What is blood pressure?
Blood pressure refers to the force of blood applied against the walls of your blood vessels. Two numbers are used to describe blood pressure, for example 120/80. The first higher number (systolic) represents the pressure when blood is forced into the arteries when the heart contracts. The second lower number (diastolic) represents the pressure in the arteries when the heart relaxes after it contracts.
One’s blood pressure can vary depending on physical or emotional state, diet, temperature, posture and use of medication. Blood pressure under 120/80 is considered normal for some people as long as he/she does not feel faint nor dizzy.
What is hypertension?
Hypertension (high blood pressure) occurs when blood pressure readings are consistently over 140/90 and anyone can develop high blood pressure regardless of age, gender or race. Most of the time people do not know their blood pressure is high because they feel all right and there are usually no symptoms present. Severely high blood pressures can cause headaches, nausea and vomiting and visual disturbances. If this is the case, untreated high blood pressure can increase one’s risk of heart disease (heart attack, angina, heart failure), stroke, impaired vision and kidney damage. Those with high blood pressure could also have diabetes or high cholesterol and their doctor should check this out.
How can I keep my blood pressure under control?
First, see your doctor for an assessment of your blood pressure. You can also visit your local pharmacy as most pharmacies have blood pressure monitors so you can take your own readings for free! Or invest in a blood pressure monitor so that you can observe your readings throughout the day. Don’t rely on one blood pressure reading alone. Your blood pressure should be taken at least 3 different times and take the average. Make sure to rest about 15-20 minutes before you take a reading and avoid consuming any alcohol or nicotine. Take ownership of your health by monitoring your blood pressure regularly!
Keep a healthy diet by eating more fruits and vegetables and restrict the amount of salt by minimizing processed and canned foods. Instant soups, fast food, microwaveable foods, processed meats; salty snacks, bottled dressings, condiments and canned goods contain very high amounts of sodium. Don’t be fooled by the taste. It may taste good but can be bad for you.
One serving (57 grams) of canned corned beef for example, contains 550 mg or 23% of your daily sodium intake, according to the nutrition facts label. That’s only 1/6 of the whole can! So, one whole can of corned beef would have more than 100% of the daily value of sodium. There may be some processed foods that are advertised as low in sodium or unsalted, but just double check by reading the nutrition label and the ingredients.
For flavouring, instead of using salt, use other seasonings or spices. The Heart and Stroke Foundation recommends that Canadians use no more than 1 teaspoonful of salt per day.
Keep an active lifestyle. Thirty to sixty minutes of physical activity on most days of the week can help lower one’s blood pressure, lower stress levels and give one more energy.
Remember to take your blood pressure prescription drugs prescribed by your doctor. Anti-hypertensive medications should be taken regularly because sudden discontinuation of medication may cause rebound blood pressure, or cause your blood pressure to shoot up to higher levels.
Disclaimer: The above information is intended for educational purposes only. Always consult with your doctor, pharmacist or health care professional to receive proper medical treatment.
Armalyn Tesoro is a graduate of the University of Manitoba with a Bachelor of Science degree in Pharmacy. She is currently working as a licensed community pharmacist at Wal-Mart on Ellice and Empress.