We Americans have a love affair with salt, and it is just this love of salt that has contributed to the rise of heart disease, hypertension, and stroke in the U.S.. If you’re on a diet for hypertension, you’ve got your work cut out for you.
Salt has been an important part of the human diet for thousands of years. As well as needing some amount of salt in your diet for body chemistry and health, (a diet for hypertension doesn’t exclude salt), you also use salt because it enhances the flavor of your food. Some people also like the taste of salt itself. Americans certainly seem to require it more than most other people. Most Americans eat twice as much salt as their bodies require. It’s an ingredient in most processed foods, found in meats, vegetables, and, of course, in nearly all snacks. That’s the American diet.
The salty food Americans consume may taste better than the unsalted variety, but that enhanced taste comes with a penalty. An over-consumption of salt in the U.S. has caused hypertension and heart disease to be among the leading diseases in the U.S., at a price tag of $24 billion a year for treatment and care. While the cost in dollars is staggering, more so is the number of people in the U.S. who die from these diseases: about 150,000 Americans lose their life each year to hypertension related disease.
This love of salt started innocently enough. Iodized salt provides the iodine the body needs to prevent a multitude of diseases. When iodized salt was introduced to the American public in 1924, it found a welcome audience. Diseases such as goiter could now be avoided. No one thought it could cause death. Salt is required by the body – its optimum level in the body is probably the same level of salt that was in the water where life began. Even in a diet for hypertension, a small amount of iodized salt is permissible, but too much salt will eventually kill you.
Keeping down salt consumption for a person with hypertension is mandatory, but it is not accomplished without a great deal of difficulty. Most Americans consume a lot of processed food, and few such foods are free of salt. Great restaurant patrons, Americans can barely avoid salt when they go out for a meal. With the growing awareness of the dangers of salt, with thousands of Americans on a diet for hypertension, many chefs have dropped salt from their palette of seasonings, letting the customer sprinkle it on for themselves. Many, we say, but not all. If you’re watching your sodium intake, ask your chef not to use it on your food.
Americans are waking up to the dangers of salt consumption: a recent study showed that 40% of Americans have attempted to reduce their salt consumption, and many are on a diet for hypertension before hypertension sets in. Food manufacturers now provide salt-free processed food, and the FDA requires the sodium content of foods to be listed on the label.
Despite these efforts, Americans still consume more salt than they need. Occurring naturally in many foods, sodium intake is nearly impossible to avoid. For Americans with hypertension, this is their challenge, to consume foods with little or no salt. Checking the salt content of your foods is a hassle, to be sure, but that’s just what anyone afflicted with hypertension must do. While a tasty meal is a true delight, staying alive is worth this sacrifice. Whether you’re on a diet for hypertension or not, reduce your salt! To your good health!