Slow down on the salt

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    In recognition of National Kidney month and National Nutrition month, we asked experts to demystify the connection between salt, high blood pressure, heart disease and kidney disease and about the all important question: how much (salt) is too much?

    Salt, made up of sodium and chloride, is both good and bad for our bodies. Our body needs sodium to balance fluids and help nerve and muscle function.

    Traffic Cops

    Our kidneys act as our bodies’ traffic cops, controlling the amount of sodium in our body. When we retain more sodium than our kidneys can get rid of, it builds up in our blood, holding excess fluid in our blood. This can lead to high blood pressure (hypertension), which makes our hearts work harder.

    There’s a high correlation between eating too much salts and raised blood pressure levels, according to research.

    Age Matters

    Blood pressure normally rises with age. The recommended sodium intake is about one teaspoon (2,300 milligrams) of salt per day, but for African Americans, particularly those with high blood pressure, chronic kidney disease or diabetes, the recommendation drops to 1,500 milligrams daily.

    If we cut our salt consumption to just 1 teaspoon of salt a day, we would save at least 500,000 lives in the U.S. over the next decade, according to new research released by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    Help with Healthy Habits

    Area healthcare provider Health Alliance Plan is offering its “ A Taste of Health” low-sodium cooking classes beginning March 27 for anyone interested in learning more about how to prepare flavorful, low-salt meals.

    It also introduced its no cost Speakers Bureau to area organizations, which provides health experts to speak on issues such as kidney disease, heart health, healthy eating, low-sodium diets, and weight management.

    “National Nutrition Month and National Kidney Month are good reminders to take steps today that can help prevent serious diseases in the future,” said Terri Kachadurian, director, Worksite Wellness and Member Engagement Programs at HAP. “Healthy choices, like passing on processed foods that are packed with sodium, can reduce our risk of high blood pressure and diabetes – the two most important risk factors for kidney disease.”

    Cutting down on salt in your cooking doesn’t have to mean giving up flavor. By replacing salt with other seasonings and herbs, you can take dishes from dull to delicious.

    Editor’s Note: LivingWELL will feature tasty, low-salt recipes this month. To see recipes and other articles visit: http://www.michiganchronicle.com. If you would like additional information about programs supported by HAP, visit http://www.hap.org.  

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