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High Blood Pressure Education Month: Managing Your Sodium

Did you know that high blood pressure remains a leading risk factor for kidney disease and other cardiovascular problems? As a result, managing hypertension is vital to tackling health holistically. In this week’s blog, to partake in High Blood Pressure Education Month, we’re aiming to spread awareness on key aggravators of hypertension and lifestyle management tips you can implement to lead a healthier life.

Sodium and Kidney Health

High sodium intake has a variety of adverse health effects on the human body. Concerning nephrology, high sodium levels can trigger kidney damage by causing the body to retain more salt and water. This, in turn, increases blood volume and, consequently, blood pressure. If unmanaged, this can lead to the swelling and scarring of kidney tissues, impairing their function over time.

Combating Excessive Sodium Intake

The average Western diet tends to include about 5 grams of sodium per day, which is vastly over the recommended daily average. Although easy to overlook, consistent excessive intake of such high sodium levels can impair and harm our body's ability to manage sodium efficiently. This is because, as we consume salt, our bodies retain less water, which burdens the kidneys as they struggle to process sodium surplus. Reducing sodium intake to 1.5 grams or less per day is an actionable strategy to combat high blood pressure. 

A few habits you can adopt to achieve this include: 

(1) Reading Labels: Always check the sodium content on food labels. This is a key factor in being conscientious about how you are integrating sodium into your diet.

(2) Choosing Food Options Wisely: did you know that processed foods and fast food are the primary sources of high sodium in our diets? This is because processed foods tend to contain high sodium levels to enhance taste and preserve the product. Instead, try opting for fresh food options!

(3) Being Restaurant-Smart: When eating out, choose dishes with lower sodium content and ask for dressings and sauces on the side. This will allow you to better control how much sodium you consume.

Racial Disparities in Sodium Sensitivity

A notable point that has been researched over time is the impact of high blood pressure and high sodium intake on people of color. The impact of sodium reduction also varies among different racial groups. Studies, such as the D.A.S.H. sodium trial, show that changes in sodium intake can have a more pronounced effect on Black individuals compared to Caucasian individuals, emphasizing the need for tailored dietary recommendations.

As we round out the last couple weeks of High Blood Pressure Education Month, make sure that you and your loved ones focus on making informed dietary choices and maintaining an active lifestyle to manage or even prevent hypertension. By understanding and reducing our sodium intake, we can take a significant step toward better health outcomes for ourselves and our communities! 

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