Forget AIDS, cancer and famine for a moment—increased blood pressure is the most common cause of death in the world! Even if you don’t have it by middle age, the Framingham study, ongoing for the past 50 years in the US, tells us you have a 90 per cent risk of developing hypertension before you die.
sodium is the culprit
There are several reasons why we develop high blood pressure. But sodium—one component of salt—is considered the key culprit. Salt-free tribal societies around the world have almost no risk of dying from high blood pressure. Chimpanzees eating nothing but fruit and vegetables only develop high blood pressure when salt is added.
While blood pressure rises faster in some people, it still rises, especially as you consume more sodium. The good news is you can prevent this rise and even manage hypertension without medication by controlling your salt intake.
but I don’t use salt
Many people who don’t add salt to their cooking or use a salt shaker believe they are following a low-salt diet but research shows up to 80 per cent of the sodium comes hidden in processed foods—including common staples such as bread, cheese and cereals.
Cutting down on salt is healthy for the whole family. Halving the amount of salt children eat results in an almost immediate fall in their blood pressure and lessens the subsequent rise in blood pressure with age. It is particularly important if you are overweight, an older person or already have high blood pressure.
three low-sodium diet hints
- Eat mostly fresh foods and eat them without any added salt.
- Buy only those processed foods, which contain less than 120 mg of sodium per 100 g of product. Check food labels.
- Look for “low sodium,” “low salt” or “no added salt” labels on food.
“Reduced salt” labelled products are required to contain only 25 per cent less sodium, so the final level may still be high (for example, salt-reduced soy sauce can contain more than 5000 mg per 100 g).