My patients often ask me if it is necessary for them to take their blood pressure medications.
Often, it is necessary to use medications to keep the blood pressure under control. However, adopting healthy habits can lower your blood pressure without the need for medication. Lowering the sodium in your diet can be very effective at reducing your blood pressure.
The term sodium is equivalent to salt, sodium chloride, NaCl, sea salt and Morton salt. It’s all the same to the body. The sodium intake goal for most people is 2,300 mg or less per day. Those with high blood pressure or heart disease should limit his or her intake of sodium to 1,500 mg per day.
Be careful how much salt you shake on your foods at the table. One quarter teaspoon of salt is equivalent to 590 mg of sodium. Be cautious about eating at restaurants where you may have no idea how much salt the cook used.
It’s important to start reading food labels on the foods you typically eat. Refer to the label called “Nutrition Facts.” Check the serving size. If the serving size is only half the amount you actually eat, you will have to double the amount of sodium. Check the amount of sodium. It is listed in “mg” amounts and “% Daily Value.” In general, a food with more than 400 mg of sodium is high in sodium.
One helpful tip is to substitute other flavors for sodium. Cooking with garlic, onion, and lemon juice gives flavor without increasing sodium content. Salt substitutes made with potassium are acceptable unless you have kidney problems, in which case you should avoid potassium.
Aim to increase the fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet. This is a flavorful option without any sodium. Anything that was processed and packaged prior to coming to your plate is probably higher in sodium than its naturally occurring counterpart. For instance, potatoes are sodium free, until they are processed into potato chips, which makes them sodium sponges.
In addition to lowering the blood pressure, reducing sodium intake has other benefits as well. It reduces fluid retention and swelling. It reduces heart failure. It helps the kidneys to function better.
If you would like more help improving your diet in order to reduce blood pressure, the DASH diet is a very well established diet that is available online at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website, www.nhlbi.nih.gov. You may also ask your physician for a referral to speak to a registered dietitian at Madison Health.
Dr. Michelle Khoury is a family physician at Madison Health Primary Care in London. To make an appointment, call 740-845-7500. The practice is currently accepting new patients, including adults and children.