It is Salt Awareness Week from 4 to 10 March 2019 and the City of Johannesburg is encouraging behaviour change when it comes to consumption of salt.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) suggests that the growth of the processed food industry has impacted the amount of salt in diets worldwide, and that this plays a role in hypertension.
Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, is a long-term medical condition in which the blood pressure in the arteries is persistently high, according to the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa (HSFSA).
Strange but true though is that high blood pressure typically does not show symptoms. While you are regularly munching away the snacks, which contain large amounts of salt or sprinkling salt over your food without even tasting it, your blood pressure is rising steadily.
Salt is made up of two minerals; sodium and chloride. Sodium is the part that is linked to high blood pressure. One table spoon of salt has 2000mg of sodium. Think about how much salt is used when cooking food daily.
All packaged foods by law must be labelled to indicate content and amounts of sugar, fats and sodium. You might be shocked at the amount of salt you eat through packaged foods. The national Department of Health enacted legislation in 2016 that mandates the reduction of salt content in certain foods that we consume. This includes bread, cereals, soup, instant noodles, savoury snacks, potato crisps, margarine and butter. The onus is on you however to change your eating habits and maintain a healthy balanced diet.
The City recommends that you eat more vegetables and fruit, potatoes, spinach, tomatoes, bananas, oranges and grapefruit which contain high levels of potassium. Potassium is a mineral that reduces the effects of sodium thus helping to control blood pressure.
According to HSFSA, hypertension is prevalent in one in three South Africans but at least 50% do not know that they have high blood pressure. Regular checking at any of the City’s clinics or your doctor is thus recommended. Make it a point this week to be aware of the amount of salt you consume and create awareness amongst family members over dinner.
Over time your blood pressure remains at a high level, which becomes a major risk factor for coronary artery disease, stroke, heart failure, atrial fibrillation, peripheral vascular disease, vision loss, chronic kidney disease and dementia.
Quick facts about hypertension:
- Normal blood pressure is 120 over 80 mm of mercury (mmHg), but hypertension is higher than 130 over 80 mmHg.
- Acute causes of high blood pressure include stress, but it can happen on its own, or it can result from an underlying condition, such as kidney disease.
- Unmanaged hypertension can lead to a heart attack, stroke, and other problems.
- Lifestyle changes are the best way to address high blood pressure.