Dear Dr. Levister: I was recently diagnosed with high blood pressure. Is eating salt on my lemons really off limits? E.P.
Dear E.P.: Eating lemons crusted with salt is an old southern comfort. Unfortunately it’s a bad habit. Some people are more sensitive to salt than others. In some people too much salt will cause their blood pressures to rise, in others there will not be as large a change. About half of people are salt sensitive. African- Americans, the elderly and people with diabetes are more often salt sensitive. If you have high blood pressure, you can always benefit from decreasing your salt intake.
Salt (sodium) is essential to our bodies. Normally the kidneys control the level of salt. If there is too much salt, the kidneys pass it into urine. But when our salt intake levels are very high, the kidneys cannot keep up and the salt ends up in our bloodstream. Salt attracts water. When there is too much salt in the blood, the salt draws more water into the blood. More water increases the volume of blood which raises blood pressure.
You need about 500 milligrams of salt everyday for your body to function. Most people take in about 10 times that amount daily. The recommended amount of salt for people with high blood pressure is about 1500 milligrams a day. Any reduction in your salt intake will help.
Processed foods use salt as an additive. Almost 80% of the average person's daily salt intake comes from processed foods. If we ate only natural foods and limited the use of table salt, we would be able to eliminate excess salt in our diets.
Salt can hide in many processed foods. Try to eat mostly produce, fruits and fresh meat. Avoid condiments, pickles, ham, bacon, salsa, cheese, cold cuts, olives, broths, anything canned, and anything processed. The list can go on and on. You need to check the sodium content on food labels and think twice about anything with over 100 mg per serving. A few of these items are okay everyday, but not too many.
A normal blood pressure is less than 120/80. High blood pressure is 140/90 or higher. If your blood pressure is between 120/80 and 140/90, you have what is called "prehypertension," which means that if you don’t take important steps, your blood pressure can turn into high blood pressure.
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