Worth Your Salt

I recently divulged on social media that my blood pressure (BP) had been consistently quite high, to the point where I thought I’d either soon be hospitalized or have to start taking meds. While I’m not opposed to conventional pharmaceutical methods to manage a particular health condition, I was adamant that I would be able to resolve this issue on my own, so I worked with my doctor and tracked my blood pressure multiple times over the course of about two weeks, while paying closer attention to my food intake and physical activity to see if any lifestyle adjustments would be able to correct this issue.

BP Before

Before I share the outcome of my story, let’s first discuss what may or may not be known about sodium and high blood pressure.

Sodium is both an electrolyte and a mineral and is found in about a 40:60 ratio in table salt, aka sodium chloride (or, scientifically, NaCl). Sodium plays a role in what’s called the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system, where it helps maintain our body’s fluid balance and nerve and muscle function. People with a high-sodium diet, suffering from dehydration, or diagnosed with Cushing’s syndrome among other conditions can become hypernatremic while anyone experiencing excessive sweating, severe vomiting or diarrhea, recovering from burns, or diagnosed with underactive adrenal glands, thyroid gland, or other illnesses can become hyponatremic.

Salt shakerAccording to the USDA, one teaspoon (about 4g) of salt provides an entire day’s worth of sodium for a healthy adult at about 2,300mg; and, even then, this is considered an upper safe limit, not a recommended daily allowance. The average daily sodium intake of Americans is actually 3,400mg, or nearly 50% more than the limit. Higher-than-recommended intakes of sodium are known to raise blood pressure and may pose other health risks like heart disease and stroke, the first and sixth leading causes of death in NYC, respectively.1 Interestingly (or maybe not so interesting if you’ve heard me say this before), over 75% of American sodium consumption comes from “outside” foods: packaged, processed, and take-out/dine-in items.2 Salt added during cooking at home doesn’t factor in nearly as much, so if you’re considering cutting back on the sodium intake, re-assess your sources before taking away that salt shaker.

(image credit: Harvard Health Publishing)

When it comes to high blood pressure (or hypertension), the kidneys are unable to filter extra sodium in the body. As the sodium collects, the body holds onto its water content (fluid retention) to try and dilute the salt, thereby increasing both the amount of salt and the amount of water in the body. This results in increased blood volume, which means the heart has to pump harder and puts more pressure on the blood vessels. This situation is no joke and why hypertension has been coined “The Silent Killer.” Over time, if the high-sodium effect becomes the norm in your body, and you end up with chronic hypertension, you may, ultimately, suffer a heart attack, stroke, or worse.

As a Registered Dietitian, my approach to helping people with any of the issues noted above usually involves teaching them how to read the Nutrition Facts label on the back of packaged foods and introducing them to the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) Diet, which, contrary to popular belief, is NOT a reduced-sodium diet, but instead focuses on nutrient-dense foods that are rich in protein, fiber, potassium, magnesium, and encourages whole foods over processed ones. This shift alone brings with it options that are naturally low in saturated fat, sugar, and salt––a win-win even for those not necessarily dealing with hypertension.3

In my case, I had to admit I was eating out way more often than I was cooking at home and, even though I was ordering from “healthy” or “natural” restaurants, I was not in control of my sodium intake and we all know that the way eateries make foods palatable is by adding fat, sugar, or salt. Since that revelation, I’ve switched back to eating more at-home meals and, when I do eat out, I ask for a low-sodium version of whatever I order or put in a special request in hopes the restaurant would so graciously accommodate me (which it usually does). With my doctor’s approval, I also added regular physical activity to my daily routine––I tend to be quite desk-ridden––and started noticing improvements in my blood pressure readings in just a few weeks.

BP After

My suggestion to you is to put this information into action ASAP:

  • Purchase an affordable blood pressure monitor and check your BP a few times a day for about a week to get an average reading for yourself. (NOTE: New blood pressure guidelines were released in November 2017 and are reflected below. What once used to be “normal” is now listed as “elevated.”)
  • Keep a log of meals during that same time period so you can cross-check if there’s a correlation if and when you get an uptick, especially if you often eat outside or packaged foods.
  • Consult with your doctor if you skew higher than normal more often than not during that test period.
  • Work with a Registered Dietitian (like me!) to help get you back on track, give you recipes to try at home, and/or teach you basic cooking skills to prepare healthier meals.

basic_blood_pressure_chart

(image credit: American Heart Association)

References:

  1. Health Department Announces 5 Year Results of National Salt Reduction Initiative. New York City Department of Health.
  2. Use the Nutrition Facts Label to Reduce Your Intake of Sodium in Your Diet. FDA website.
  3. Soltani, S.,Chitsazi, M.J., Salehi-Abargouei, A. (2017). The effect of dietary approaches to stop hypertension (DASH) on serum inflammatory markers: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized trials. Clinical Nutrition; S0261-5614(17).

Summer 2017 promotions

How the heck are we already more than halfway through the year? Yikes! If you’re like me, you may be slightly anxious about not having accomplished certain things on that ever-growing to-do list by now. If one of those things was to engage in healthier habits, then you’re in luck! We have TWO summer promotions you might be interested in:

  1. Receive one (1) 30-minute nutrition counseling session for $25 (valued at $40). Click here to book an appointment. Select the “PROMO! Healthful Lifestyle Coaching (30 min)” option. Offer applies to new clients only and ends 7/31/17. Session must be booked before September 30, 2017.
  2. Starting August 6, keep an eye out for our new “4-Week Fast Track” series. Learn new healthful lifestyle habits, get back on track with ones you’ve lost, and maybe shed some unwanted pounds in the process. Total cost is $28 for 28 days. You must have access to a Facebook account as we will be creating a closed group for all participants and you’ll receive links to videos and materials to help keep you motivated!

And if those don’t strike your fancy, you can always book a *FREE* 15-minute phone consultation to see if there’s a program that works for you.

I look forward to helping you meet your healthful lifestyle goals. Please feel free to share this with anyone you think might benefit from our services.

Eat well and be well!

Stick a Fork in Me

The end of a year is often time for reflection. For me, this has been both one of the best and worst years I’ve ever experienced. While I’m glad 2016 is over, I am grateful for so many of the opportunities that came my way and am looking forward to my future endeavors, both personally and professionally.

As a small business entrepreneur, it’s often difficult to separate out the work stuff from the life stuff. While I’m not big on resolutions, I will be taking into account the things that caused me the most stress over the past 12 months and diminishing those items that are within my control going forward.

gone-fishin

To start, effective tomorrow, 12/23, I have promised myself a reprieve from social media until after the New Year. I am desperate for a brain break, but have also been feeling a lot of eye fatigue and recently became afflicted with “texting elbow” (it’s a thing), so it’s time for a physical and mental detachment to allow me to do some soul-searching and reprioritize what matters most to me.

Another reason why I’ll be offline starting tomorrow is to help my mom prepare our annual Christmas Eve dinner menu. I won’t be uploading pics of the spread until January, so, until then, I invite you to peruse through some of the holiday posts from my archives:

Come January, keep an eye on this site for so many fun things I have in the works for 2017, like one-week challenges, a four-week fast-track program, free book giveaways and promotions, the launch of my YouTube channel, and much, much more.

I wish all of you a very safe and happy holiday season. Eat well and be well. See you again in 2017!