The Heart and Stroke Foundation SA has found that the country could have 7 400 less annual deaths from heart disease and strokes if our salt intake is lowered by just 0.85 grams per day. This small change may also negate at least 4 300 less non-fatal strokes per year.
High salt intake has long been a global health concern as this contributes greatly to the ever-increasing numbers of people who have blood pressure problems. This also results in cardiovascular disease, which is one of the world’s leading causes of death. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the daily salt intake should be no higher than five grams per day.
“It’s time we see restrictions on the marketing of unhealthy foods to children and what’s available to them at school where they spend most of their day,” Pamela Naidoo, the Foundation’s Chief Executive, told IOL.
Statistics by the Heart and Stroke Foundation SA reflect that 10 people suffer a stroke every hour in South Africa, while 225 people die from various heart diseases across the country on a daily basis.
As it is Salt Awareness Week, it is informing South Africans of the dangers of hypertension.
What is hypertension?
“High blood pressure, or hypertension, is one of the most serious risks factors for death from heart diseases and strokes, responsible for 13% of all deaths globally,” the Foundation said. “In South Africa, more than one in three adults live with high blood pressure and it is responsible for one in every two strokes and two in every five heart attacks.”
High blood pressure is known as a ‘silent killer’ because there are rarely any symptoms or visible signs to warn that blood pressure is high. That is why more than 50% of people with high blood pressure are unaware of their condition. In some cases, typically with very high blood pressure, symptoms such as headaches, visual disturbances, nose bleeds, nausea, vomiting, facial flushing and sleepiness may be experienced.
“Do not wait for symptoms to appear. High blood pressure becomes more likely with older age, but anyone, no matter their age, gender, fitness level or lifestyle can develop high blood pressure. Blood pressure should be measured at least once every year, so don’t delay!”
How to manage high blood pressure
“If blood pressure is slightly higher than normal, a further increase in blood pressure can be prevented. If blood pressure is already high it can be improved by making lifestyle changes and by taking blood pressure medication,” the Foundation said. “A doctor can advise whether someone needs to start medication immediately or if they should first make lifestyle improvements only, based on their other lifestyle risk factors and medical history.”
Once someone starts blood pressure medication it is usually permanent, and medication should be taken regularly for it to work well. Sometimes one medication is not sufficient and a second or third medication needs to be added.
“Making lifestyle changes along with medication is important to achieve the best possible results,” it added.
How to cut down your salt intake
– A high salt intake is linked to high blood pressure. Reduce your salt intake to no more than 5g (1 teaspoon) of salt, from all sources, a day
– Reduce the salt added to your food during cooking and at the table
– Make use of fresh and dried herbs, spices, garlic or lemon juice to add flavour to your food, without adding extra salt or salty seasoning like chicken or BBQ spice
– Foods like packet soups, stock cubes, gravies, cheese, many breakfast cereals, breads, salty snacks, processed meats and fast foods are very high in salt, so should be used sparingly