Friday, October 5, 2012

Myth: My doctor told me I have high blood pressure, so all I have to do is cut back on salt.

Answer: BUSTED!

Blood pressure is the force against the arteries when the heart pumps blood through the body. Systolic pressure occurs when the heart beats and diastolic pressure occurs when the heart is resting between beats. Blood pressure is expressed as systolic/diastolic in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg).

High blood pressure or hypertension, left uncontrolled can lead to stroke, heart attack, heart failure or kidney failure. That’s why hypertension is known as the “silent killer.” High blood pressure is the number one controllable risk factor for stroke.

Most healthy Americans should consume less than 2300 milligrams of sodium, about 1 teaspoon of salt, per day. If you have hypertension or diabetes, if you are over the age of 51 or if you’re African American, you should only consume 1500 milligrams of sodium or less per day, which is about 2/3 of a teaspoon of salt.

salt shaker
If your blood pressure is high, cutting back on salt is one thing that may help lower your blood pressure. But there are other lifestyle modifications that are just as important. Some other things you can do to prevent or control high blood pressure are:

  • Follow a healthy eating plan — cut back on fats, eat more potassium-rich foods and eat less sodium-rich foods
  • Try the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan
  • Lose weight
  • Be physically active
  • Quit smoking
  • Limit alcohol intake
  • Manage stress
  • Take medication, if necessary

The bottom line: Have your blood pressure checked regularly and prevent hypertension with a healthy lifestyle.

Visit to find more information on health and nutrition.

Contributor: Karen Sherbondy, MEd, RD, LD, Extension Associate, Nutrition and Exercise Physiology, University of Missouri Extension, 816-655-6227

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