Hypertension? Time to get your Blood Pressure down down down!

World Heart Day has passed and yes, haven’t I timed it well with posting nothing?! Being insanely busy does keep me away from writing but in a dietitian’s world, everyday is world heart day, world diabetes day, world obesity day, world cancer month and the list keeps going…so it’s never too late! Today’s post is targeted for those with hypertension aka high blood pressure. It’s also a good start for everyone trying to cut down on, yes..surprise, SALT!

A high salt diet is one factor in developing high blood pressure. So what really happens?  A high salt intake  causes our bodies to retain water which in turn causes a rise in blood volume.  An increase in blood volume eventually leads to an increase in blood pressure.  So apart from meds, you can help reduce blood pressure by simply reducing your salt intake. As a general guide, the following tips can help reduce blood pressure:

  • Eat 3-6 small meals per day.
  • Eat a healthy balanced diet, low in saturated fat that includes a variety of foods and provides sufficient amounts of potassium (found in fruit, vegetables, dairy products and fish), calcium, magnesium (in whole grains, nuts, and dry peas and beans) and omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Achieve a healthy weight! Losing as little as 5-10% of your initial body weight can help lower your blood pressure.
  • Limit salt (sodium chloride) intake to one teaspoon per day. “Hidden salt” in processed foods represents 65-80% of our intake of sodium chloride with only 15% coming from the salt we add at the table.  Read labels of products for sodium content before purchase! Aim for 200mg/100g or less of sodium.
  • Caffeine in coffee, tea, cola drinks and chocolate may cause blood pressure to increase temporarily. Excessive intake is therefore not advised.
  • Physical activity should be part of your daily routine. Try to exercise for at least 30-45 minutes most days of the week. Avoid strenuous exercise such as lifting heavy weights, which can raise blood pressure.
  • Stress management is important in keeping your blood pressure under control.

Tips for reducing your salt intake

  • Avoid/limit processed foods – Cured/smoked/ salted/tinned foods.
  • Buy more fresh, unprocessed.
  • Do not add salt at the table or in cooking.
  • Use more spices in cooking such as:
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Dy mustard powder —
  • Lemon juice, lime juice, vinegar —
  • Herbs- basil, oregano, mint, rosemary, thyme, parsley, chives, sage, tarragon —
  • Garlic, curry, chilli, onion, fresh ginger, spring onions —
  • Spices- cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, ginger, cumin

Don’t forget other names for salt/sodium:

Salt is often listed under a different name – check for the following on food labels:

  • table/rock/sea salt
  • vegetable salt
  • stock cubes
  • yeast extracts
  • seasoning
  • booster          
  • sodium chloride
  • monosodium glutamate (MSG) (621)
  • baking soda/powder
  • *sodium metabisulphite (223)
  • *sodium nitrate (251)
  • *sodium benzoate (211)
  • *sodium sorbate (201)

*used as food preservatives

Basically, try to enjoy the natural flavours of food…Also, remember to read the labels on food products you buy. Some foods you’d never guess contain salt!


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