Question: I have high blood pressure and have been advised by my GP to eat less salt but I’m not sure how. What’s the harm in it?
Answer: Blood pressure is the pressure of the blood in the arteries as it is pumped around the body by the heart. It changes to meet your body’s needs and is affected by various factors including body position, breathing, exercise and salt. Normal blood pressure is generally less than 120/80mmHg.
The medical name for persistently high blood pressure is ‘hypertension’ and is a major risk factor in heart disease and strokes. It is particularly dangerous as it has no symptoms. In fact, according to the Consensus Action on Salt and Health, raised blood pressure accounts for 62% of strokes and almost half of all cases of coronary heart disease.
You can check your blood pressure on the spot at a number of London chemists.
A high salt diet is linked to many other conditions including stomach cancer, osteoporosis, kidney disease, kidney stones and obesity while it also exacerbates the symptoms of asthma, Alzheimer’s and diabetes. Don’t be misled by ‘gourmet’ brands of sea and rock salt – they contain the same amount of sodium chloride as ordinary table salt so will have exactly the same effect on your blood pressure and health. Salt contains no other minerals, so you are far better off getting vitamins and minerals from a balanced diet.
Almost everyone eats too much salt. Although the daily recommended amount in the UK is no more than 6g, many people exceed even the average salt intake of 8.6g a day. People with, or considered at risk of, high blood pressure should take extra care to ensure that they keep their salt intake below 6g. This can be achieved by simple changes, such as consuming less processed foods and checking product labels before purchase. About 75% of the salt we consume is from processed/packaged foods.
Ways to consume less salt:
- Avoid foods naturally high in salt such as cheese, chips, crisps, salted nuts and sauces such as ketchup and soy sauce
- When you do use it in cooking, measure it with your fingertips rather than pouring liberally from the tub or salt shaker
- Buy a salt shaker with the smallest hole you can find, and look out for grinders that can be adjusted so that less comes out
- Opt for fine table salt rather than coarse crystals
- Consider a reduced-sodium salt alternative, such as LoSalt
- Take a trip to your local market or Asian supermarket for a variety of herbs and spices to use in cooking rather than adding salt. Some of our favourites are Brixton Market, Art Muay Supermarket in Earls Court, Hoang-Nam supermarket and Bangla City
- Natural flavour enhancers include pepper, fresh ginger, tomatoes/tomato purée, citrus fruits and zest, garlic, onions, celery and chilli
- Cook more meals rather than relying on processed or packaged ready meals. If you lack confidence in the kitchen, why not take a cookery lesson or local course? The Cookery School has a range of courses available or the School of Food comes to your home!
Art Muay Supermarket
8A Hogarth Road
187 Mare Street
86 Brick Lane
The Cookery School
15B Little Portland Street
Tel: 0207 631 4590
Image by DaGoaty courtesy of Flickr