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Salt, The Forgotten Killer

Salt Awareness Week 2017 is almost upon us! This year, from 20th to 26th March the Heart and Stroke Foundation SA will aim to combat the Forgotten Killer in partnership with Dis-Chem Pharmacies.

Too much salt is bad for your heart

Did you know, that too much salt increases blood pressure and high blood pressure (hypertension) can lead to a heart attack and /or stroke? In South Africa, 1 in 3 people 15 years or older have high blood pressure, however, 50% of these people are unaware that they do.

How much is too much?

Your body needs only a small amount of salt to be healthy.  The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends to limit salt intake to no more than 5 g per day, or less than 2000 mg of sodium; which is equivalent to 1 teaspoon of salt from all sources of food. On average, the current salt intake levels in South Africa range from 6 to 11 g per day - reaching more than double the recommendation! Find out how much salt you are eating by using the Salt Calculator.

Where do I get salt from?

More than half (55%) of the salt we eat comes from processed foods, such as bread, stocks, gravy powder and soups, processed meats and brick margarine.  Just less than half (40%) of the salt we eat is what we add ourselves during cooking and at the table to prepared meals.

Fortunately for us, foods commonly eaten in South Africa, such as bread, breakfast cereals, potato crisps and processed meat have reduced their salt content as of June 2016, due to new legislation that limits the amount of salt allowed in certain foods.

Know your numbers

Get your blood pressure checked to know your risk, it can save your life!Many people don’t know they have high blood pressure as they may not experience any symptoms or warning signs to alert them. That’s why it’s known as the ‘silent killer’. It’s therefore very important to check your blood pressure regularly!

In support of Salt Awareness Week, Dis-Chem Pharmacies is offering FREE blood pressure testing at Dis-Chem clinics nationwide. From 17 March - 9 April 2017, simply visit your nearest clinic to get tested and get all the information you need to look after your heart.

3 Steps to Slash Your Salt Intake

  1. Choose less salty foods  

  • Look out for products with the Heart Mark as they are lower in salt.

  • Swap processed meat like polony or vienna’s for fresh meat or fish.

  • Many processed foods are high in salt so choose fresh ingredients as far as possible.

  1. Cook with less salt

  • Cook at home more often, using fresh ingredients.

  • Use less salt or salty ingredients like gravy powder, stocks and soups when you cook and taste before you add salt.

  • Flavour your food with herbs, spices, lemon juice, garlic, ginger and chilli instead of salt.

  1. Add less salt at the table

  • After first tasting your dish, add only a pinch of salt IF REALLY NEEDED.

  • To minimise temptation, remove the salt-shaker from the table!

What else can I do?

There are some other dietary and lifestyle changes you could make to prevent or reduce high blood pressure, such as:

  • Drink less alcohol. Drinking too much alcohol can raise your blood pressure. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation, which is no more than 1 drink a day for women and 2 drinks a day for men. One drink is a small glass of wine (120 ml), a can of beer (340 ml) or a tot of any spirits (25 ml).

  • Eat well. Eat more fruit, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy. These foods are high in minerals such as potassium and calcium as well as dietary fibre, which all help to lower high blood pressure.

  • Move more! Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity 5 times a week. Regular exercise helps to lower high blood pressure, reduces risk of heart disease and stroke and helps to manage stress and release tension, among numerous other benefits.

  • Maintain a healthy weight. If you are overweight, even losing a small amount of weight may help lower your blood pressure and reduce the strain on your heart. Maintaining a healthy weight provides several health benefits.

  • Avoid smoking andor being in a place where others are smoking. Smoking almost triples the risk of heart disease. It narrows blood vessels which increases blood pressure.