February 19, 2013
LIMA — In the spirit of American Heart Month this February, many are likely trying to better their hearts, by doing things like eating low-fat foods and incorporating daily cardio routines. However, another big factor to developing heart problems is hidden in all sorts of foods: it’s salt.
“Most people I think recognize that salt causes the body to retain water, fluids,” said Beth Langefels, spokesperson for the American Heart Association in western Ohio. “The problem is if you’re walking around and you’re retaining a lot of fluids, you’re putting a strain on your heart, and you’re causing your blood pressure to go up. More fluid obviously compresses the organs, compresses the arteries, and so you want to not do that because it almost instantaneously, it will affect your blood pressure. And so, you’re putting that strain on your arteries and obviously, you’re increasing your chances of causing a heart problem.”
The American Heart Association recently announced a new three-week challenge to decrease salt intake, since Americans, on average, consume more than twice the recommended daily value of sodium. The recommended value is 1,500 milligrams, while national average intake is 3,400 milligrams. In three weeks time, a sodium palate can completely change, Langefels said, making taste buds more sensitive to salty tastes.
Aside from reducing amounts in diet, it might not be as apparent which foods should go or be cut back on. For instance, foods that have a salty taste like potato chips are obvious items to cross off the list when adopting a low-sodium diet. However, there are many other salt-packed foods, like bread, pizza, and other packaged foods that aren’t so apparent that can add up intake quickly. The American Heart Association refers to these foods as the salty six.
“It’s important to read labels,” Langefels said. “Look for low-sodium options, but then also watch your portions because your serving sizes are going to cause your sodium intake to go up. And then soups and canned goods and pre-packaged things, there’s a lot of low-sodium alternatives out there.”
By focusing on specific foods week by week, tallying up salt intake by looking at labels, it can be easy.
Other ways to improve heart health are to have a high-fiber, low-fat diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables.