Salt: The Forgotten Killer
Each year, the Heart Foundation of Jamaica joins with the World Action on Salt and Health (WASH) to commemorate Salt Awareness Week. This year, the week is being celebrated from March 20-26 under the theme Salt: The Forgotten Killer.
Excessive salt in the diet can cause hypertension, which is a risk factor for heart disease. Therefore, by simply eating less, we can lower our chances of dying prematurely. The Heart Foundation will be emphasising the need for further work in this area if persons are able to reach the World Health Organization's recommendation to eat less than five grams of sodium per day. That's one teaspoon of salt per day added to the diet, while most Jamaicans eat two to five teaspoons of salt per day.
The objective of the Foundation is to promote heart health in Jamaica. One of the ways to achieve this is by screening and as such The Heart Foundation, in observance of Salt Awareness Week, emphasises the importance of having your blood pressure checked to screen for hypertension.
As Deborah Chen from the Heart Foundation of Jamaica says, "some persons do not realise that salt can increase blood pressure, leading to strokes and heart attacks. Many of us eat too much salt mainly due to the fact that 75 per cent of our salt intake is from the food we buy, especially processed foods. Eating less salt doesn't have to be difficult; everyone, both at home, and out of the home, can take action.
"Simply by reading the labels, switching to lower salt options and not adding salt during cooking and using tasty ingredients such as herbs, spices and citrus, you can make a huge difference to your salt intake. You might even be surprised how great your food tastes!"
Graham MacGregor, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at The Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine and chairman of WASH, comments: "Salt damages our health. Salt reduction is the simplest and most cost effective measure to prevent thousands of unnecessary deaths from stroke and heart attacks every year. It is not just down to the individuals; manufactures must stop adding salt to our foods. During World Salt Awareness Week, you can do something great for your health by eating less salt."
Salt raises our blood pressure, and as a result, hundreds of thousands of people around the world die unnecessarily each year from strokes, heart attacks and heart failure. Many people don't even realise that they are eating too much salt.
Most sodium intake comes from using salt at the table. Table salt is about 40 per cent sodium.
TIPS TO REDUCE SODIUM INTAKE
To reduce the amount of sodium in your diet:
1. Avoid adding salt and canned vegetables to homemade dishes when cooking.
2. If you've already cooked your meals with salt, don't place salt shaker on the dining table.
3. Avoid processed foods like bacon, soy sauce, soup packets, and canned food.
4. Only use low-fat or skimmed milk, low-fat cheese and low-fat yogurt.
5. Don't overuse condiments like ketchup, mayonnaise and mustard.
6. Avoid the frequent use of corned or salted foods, like salt fish, pig's tail and corned pork.
7. Check the 'Nutritional Information' label before buying products to ensure that the sodium is less than 0.12 g per serving.
8. Purchase only the low-sodium version of the foods you like.
9. When preparing meals, substitute salt for herbs and spices that are low in sodium like scotch bonnet, parsley and rosemary.
10. Sprinkle fresh lemon/lime over salads or vegetables
The DASH (Dietary Approach to Stopping Hypertension) diet is a very effective way to lower blood pressure by including 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily.