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Lower salt intake reduces risk of hypertension

“Salt intake should not exceed two grams per day,” said Dr. Gabriel Jasul Jr., President of the Philippine Society of Endocrinology and Metabolism during the 3rd National Hypertension Awareness celebration held at Universidad de Manila on 19 May 2012.

Salt is composed of two minerals, sodium and chloride, which are both essential for blood electrolytes. They help regulate blood pressure and are critical for the functioning of the body’s muscles and nerves.

However, “Excessive intake of salt may increase high blood pressure,” said Dr. Jasul. “Because salt attracts water, the retention of too much water in the blood increased blood volume in the arteries. It also causes the swelling of the innermost lining of the arteries which narrows the diameter of the blood vessel leading to increased blood pressure.”

In a survey conducted by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute of the Department of Science and Technology (FNRI-DOST), a typical Filipino diet contains about 2 grams of sodium. However, with an addition of soy sauce, fish sauce (patis), fish paste (bagoong), mono sodium glutamate (vetsin) and other salty condiments during cooking, the sodium intake of an individual increases drastically to about 6000 milligrams or about 15 grams of salt.

In an interview, Dr. Imelda Agdeppa, nutritionist from FNRI-DOST, said that limiting salt intake is one of the most important steps that hypertensive people should take. She suggested strategies on how to avoid or limit intake of salt. “Avoid eating processed foods such as canned goods, ham, bacon, and dried fishes and increase consumption of natural foods like fresh fruits and vegetables. Also, avoid adding too much seasoning to your food like soy sauce, patis, bagoong and other condiments. Instead, use fresh herbs, lemon juice and vinegar.”

Though salt contains important minerals that are good for the body, “We should lower the level of intake. Let’s practise healthy eating patterns by reducing our salt consumption. The lower the salt intake, the better,” reiterated Dr. Agdeppa.