Diet & Nutrition

A pinch will do

Salt is a major factor on raising blood pressure. High salt (sodium) onsumption is the cause of hypertension in about three in 10 adults. Photo: R Raghu   | Photo Credit: R Raghu

Over 1.5 billion people worldwide suffer from high blood pressure. High blood pressure is a common cause and complication of all vascular diseases. Salt is a major factor on raising blood pressure. High salt (sodium) consumption is the cause of hypertension in about three in 10 adults.

Hypertension is the major risk factor in cardiovascular diseases, accounting for 64 per cent of strokes and 49 per cent of coronary heart disease.

Reducing sodium reduces blood pressure. Globally, seven million die every year because of high blood pressure. Many of these deaths could be prevented by eating less sodium.

Foods of animal origin contain more sodium than those of vegetable origin. On the average 5 to 10 gm sodium chloride is ingested per day in an average diet.

Knowing your risk for heart disease is the first step towards the prevention of deadly heart attacks. It is important to start lifestyle changes early in life rather than after one develops cardiac problems later in life.

On an average diet about three to five gm of sodium is excreted in urine. On a low salt diet and in starvation, urinary excretion may fall to very low levels.

How much is too much?

Sodium is an important electrolyte that controls fluid balance, blood pressure and blood volume. The kidneys regulate sodium balance. Salt-sensitive hypertension is more common amongst Indians. An adult with high blood pressure is at increased risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and kidney failure. Minimum daily sodium requirement is about 1.5 gm and the maximum recommended daily level is 2.3 gm (1 teaspoon salt is equal to 2 gm sodium).

Reducing daily sodium intake to within the recommended dietary intake (RDI) of 0.92-2.3 gm may be one way to reduce heart disease risk.

The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension recommends a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and low fat dairy products with a reduced content of saturated and total fat and a reduced dietary sodium intake not more than 2.4 gm of sodium or six gm salt.

If patients find the food unpalatable because of these restrictions, they may refuse to eat. So, a variety of flavourings such as lemon juice and herbs may be used to improve the taste of the food and increase acceptance.

The writer is an Interventional Cardiologist based in Chennai.

Salt fact file

The average daily salt intake worldwide is approximately 9-12 gm in adults and 1-1.2 gm in children up to 3 years.

The World Health Organisation recommends not more than 1 teaspoon (5-6 gm) of salt a day.


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Printable version | Jul 21, 2021 6:08:59 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/health/diet-and-nutrition/A-pinch-will-do/article16874845.ece

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