High blood pressure: Five ways to reduce your daily salt intake

High blood pressure is often branded the “silent killer” as symptoms usually go undetected at first, then serious problems strike. Similarly, people consume large amounts of salt without realising the risks associated. According to Katharine Jenner, CEO of Blood Pressure UK, “We are all eating too much salt which can damage our health. Salt puts up our blood pressure leading to an increased risk of strokes and heart attacks; it is also linked to kidney disease, stomach cancer and osteoporosis.”

Reducing the amount of salt in our diets can help save lives and millions in health care costs

Dr Sarah Jarvis

Despite efforts to ween people off salt, 93 percent of people still use salt at home. According to GP and medical commentator Sarah Jarvis, “Reducing the amount of salt in our diets can help save lives and millions in health care costs. The average person in the UK is consuming 8.1g of salt which is much higher than is recommended, so this is an issue that needs to be addressed.”

Dr Jarvis recommends the following five dietary tips to reduce your salt intake:

  • Try to cut down on processed food as this is where the majority of salt in our diets come from. Ready meals, readymade sauces and soups are often high in salt
  • Keep processed meats to a minimum. Bacon, ham and sausages contain salt
  • Don’t be duped into thinking posh gourmet sea and rock salts are better for you. Some of these manufacturers make very misleading claims. They all contain exactly the same amount of sodium as regular table salt and any other trace minerals will be present in such small quantities that you won’t get any benefit
  • Avoid seasoning and adding salt to food at home. Try using herbs, spices and lemon juice instead. Weaning yourself off salt takes some getting used to, but your palate will adjust. If you can’t go without salt, then you are better to use a reduced sodium salt like LoSalt instead. It is the sodium in salt which is linked to high blood pressure
  • Remember, high blood pressure is very common and it often has no symptoms. It usually affects people as they get older and will be checked as part of your NHS health check which you are invited to every five years between the ages of 40-74. It’s important that you attend these health checks as they can help detect early signs for high blood pressure, stroke, kidney disease, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and dementia.

Jenner also recommends trying out FoodSwitch – a free app which also gives you healthier alternatives of similar foods to choose from when out shopping.

According to the NHS, other ways to lower a surging blood pressure include:

  • Cut back on alcohol
  • Lose weight if you’re overweight
  • Exercise regularly
  • Cut down on caffeine
  • Stop smoking
  • Try to get at least 6 hours of sleep a night

“Some people with high blood pressure may also need to take 1 or more medicines to stop their blood pressure getting too high,” adds the health body.

According to Bupa, finding ways to combat stress will also help to lower a soaring blood pressure, it explained: “Stress can temporarily raise your blood pressure. You may adopt unhealthy habits to cope with stress, like drinking more, which also affect your blood pressure. Learning to relax your body and mind can help.

“You may want to consider stress management, cognitive therapies or muscle relaxation techniques, for example. Your doctor can advise on some of these and possibly refer you for specialist therapy.”

It is important to closely monitor your blood pressure, especially if you are over the age of forty, said the NHS.

According to Blood Pressure UK, an ideal reading is below 120 over 80 (120/80). This is the ideal blood pressure for people wishing to have good health. “At this level, we have a much lower risk of heart disease or stroke,” it said.

There a number of places to get your blood pressure tested, according to the NHS. These include:

  • At your GP surgery – by a GP, practice nurse, healthcare assistant or self-service machine
  • At some pharmacies
  • At an NHS Health Check appointment offered to adults aged 40 to 74 in England
  • In some workplaces
  • At a health event

You can also test your blood pressure at home, added the NHS.

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