Many adults are hypertensive and sodium has always been the culprit. Sodium is among the minerals needed by the body in relatively bigger amounts. Sodium is a key factor in the regulation of fluid balance both within and outside the cells. As it shifts across the cell membrane or wall, it creates electrical potential charge with potassium allowing muscles to contract and nerve impulses to be conducted. It is needed everyday hence cannot be totally eliminated.
The amount of sodium that the body needs for proper functioning is estimated to be a small thus the recommended intake of 500 mg per day starting at age 10 for Filipinos. This may be obtained easily from eating unprocessed food without adding salt. This is also much less than the sodium that is found in one teaspoon of table salt which is estimated at 2,400 milligrams.
Researches have established that the typical Filipino diet is high in sodium. Not only do we add salt which is 40% sodium to our diet but we also use soy, alamang, bagoong, patis and the like. Processed meat, bread, pizza, sandwiches, cheese, chips, popcorn, pretzels, crackers and other “chicheria” are high in sodium. Many unprocessed foods naturally contain sodium but lower in fruits and vegetables and higher in milk.
Too much sodium in the body has long been implicated in hypertension and cardiovascular diseases especially among salt-sensitive individuals. Water stays with sodium or sodium holds water so as sodium builds up in the body, the amount of water surrounding the cells and volume of blood increases. With increased blood volume, the heart needs to pump more and there will also be more pressure on blood vessels. Over time, it can lead to high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, heart failure and even kidneys. Kidneys are involved because excess sodium is excreted via the kidneys. Harvard.edu continues that too much excessive sodium may also lead to loss of calcium.
A low sodium diet is thus among the features of the Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension (DASH). Some ways to do it include eating more fresh fruits and vegetables, limiting intake of foods processed with salt and substitutes, use of herbs and spices, lemon and lime juices, vinegars and other salt-free or low sodium condiments. It is thus important to read the nutrition label especially that even processed foods that do not taste salty, may contain sodium. As hypertension can start as early as childhood, children should not be accustomed to diets high in sodium. It is never too late to accustom oneself to a low sodium diet.
By the way, there are salt-sensitive individuals whose blood pressure may easily rise with increased salt consumption. Unfortunately, there is no way to know if you are salt-sensitive or not. So best is to keep salt intake low.