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Blog: Salt and its impact on blood pressure – and what to do about it2019-03-21T17:39:53-04:00

Blog: Salt and its impact on blood pressure – and what to do about it.

Volume I, Issue IV

An ironman athlete I work with was recently (repeatedly) taking his blood pressure at a trade show – with incredibly high results. So high, in fact, that one of our colleagues suggested we drive him to the local ER.

And as we are in the business of blood pressure monitoring, we all saw it as an opportunity to diagnose why his blood pressure was so outside his normal range.

We all took our blood pressure, with normal results. It wasn’t the device.

Healthy, fit man

Then we looked at the usual suspects. He was standing and talking for the most part when getting his initial results – we had him sit quietly, in a chair, feet flat on the floor, back straight, with his arm on a table.

His results lowered, but remained considerably outside of his normal range.

Then one of our engineers asked him what he’d consumed the day before. He ticked off an (abnormally) healthy diet, followed by the phrase that was a Eureka moment for all of us:

“I took a bunch of salt supplements before I went out training in the hot weather.”

People generally aren’t surprised to learn that increased amounts of salt in your diet can increase your blood pressure, but most people don’t realize to what degree: Watching my very healthy colleague move from his normal blood pressure range into a highly hypertensive state (albeit temporarily) was eye-opening.

It peaked my curiosity about what we eat and how it (immediately) impacts blood pressure. So I did some digging on what’s recommended.

Recommendations from Health Canada

Currently – and maybe not surprising – the average Canadian consumes more than 2,760 milligrams a day, an amount often found in a single restaurant meal.  Health Canada’s goal is to reduce sodium intake to between 1, 500 and 2,300 milligrams (mg) – that’s about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon – a day.  And if you have high blood pressure, your doctor may recommend you keep your intake even lower.

Health Canada defines a high-sodium food as one that contains more than 480 milligrams of sodium per serving.  My favorite General Tso’s chicken dish has a whopping 2700 mg of sodium – more than the recommended daily amount in one serving!

Tips for Reducing Sodium Intake

But take heart! Here are some tips for people who want to lower sodium from their diets:

Check food labels

Check labels and reduce preservatives

Be aware of the sodium levels in: processed foods, natural foods with a higher-than-average sodium content (cheese, seafood, olives and some legumes) and salts (table salt, sea salt and kosher salt).

Shop smart, cook smart

Choose lower-sodium foods or low-sodium versions of your favorites.

Eat more fruits and vegetables

…and select unsalted nuts or seeds, dried beans, peas and lentils.

Don’t use salt during cooking

Tip: remove the salt shaker from your table so you won’t be tempted to add any later.

Reduce sodium when dining out

Be familiar with low-sodium foods and look for them on the menu. When ordering, be specific about what you want and how you want it prepared. Request that your dish be prepared without salt.

Use seasoning alternatives to spice it up

There is a rich world of creative and flavorful alternatives to salt. Get creative and experiment!

In 2016, Health Canada updated their nutrition labelling regulations to help people better understand how much sodium is in their food.  Because they estimate that “over 30% of high blood pressure cases in Canada are due to high sodium intake”, lowering salt intake even a little bit can have a huge healthy impact on your heart. For more information on this topic from the Health Canada, you can visit their site.


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