6.3 million South Africans suffer from hypertension. Every hour, 10 of them will have a stroke and five will succumb to a heart attack. Poor diet and stress are culprits, but salt, it appears, is one of the principal offenders.

South Africans have one of the highest rates of hypertension (high blood pressure) in the world, reports the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa (HSFSA). The facts are sobering: With 6.3 million of our countrymen living with high blood pressure, South Africans are highly susceptible to life-threatening diseases like stroke and heart disease. Statistics currently show that 10 people will suffer a stroke and five people will have a heart attack every hour.

Worldwide, the number of people suffering from high blood pressure has doubled over the past 40 years. And, say researchers, hypertension is no longer a problem of the Western world or wealthy countries, it’s also affecting the poorest countries and people. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), people in its African region have the highest prevalence of hypertension globally. One of the reasons, says the organisation, is that this group is prone to using excess salt – both when cooking and in their high consumption of processed foods, which contain hidden salts.

The salt link

A staggering 80 percent of cardiovascular diseases could be prevented with lifestyle changes, such as reducing salt. Excess salt intake directly increases blood pressure in most people, and exacerbates high blood pressure in people who already have this condition.

The WHO recommends that you consume just one teaspoon of salt a day – that’s 5 grams. But the average South African eats 6 to 11 grams of salt per day.

It’s not a simple ask. Simply adding less salt to your food may not solve the problem. Some 75 percent of the salt we eat is hidden in the food we buy. Gabriel Eksteen, dietitian and exercise physiologist at the HSFSA, explains: ‘Salt intake is not easy to measure as it is hidden in almost everything we eat, even sweet foods. When we add extra salt in cooking or at the table, all the pinches, shakes and grinds of salt add more than we actually need. One take-away meal can triple our salt limit for one day. Even a cheese and ham sandwich can provide 2.5 grams of salt, already half the daily limit.’

So you’re eating less salt. What else can you do to lower your blood pressure?

Factors other than high salt consumption can cause your blood pressure to rise above the World Health Organization (WHO)-recommended reading of 140/90 or higher. There are a number of natural ways to reduce high blood pressure naturally:

  • Lose weight. Obesity is a key factor in people with hypertension.
  • Eat more fresh, raw and preferably organic produce (this should make up 80 percent of your diet). Eat more veg than fruit.
  • Add raw almonds, cayenne pepper, raw cacao, turmeric and garlic to your diet – they’re known to help control high blood pressure.
  • Drink more fluids – not fizzy and sugary drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks, etc. Go for herbal teas, water, coconut water – many people have high blood pressure simply because they are dehydrated.
  • Have your blood pressure checked regularly – it’s a quick service available at most pharmacies.
  • Use supplements as recommended by your healthcare practitioner. Flora Force Hypertension Formula™ is a product you can trust. It helps treat conditions associated with high blood pressure, supports heart function, helps prevent blood clotting, improves circulation and vein health and acts as an anti-inflammatory. Order yours online from Faithful To Nature
  • Flora Force Turmeric capsules is also helpful to keep blood vessels clear and improve circulation- also available from Faithful To Nature.

South Africa leads the anti-hypertension battle

In 2016, South Africa introduced legislation to limit the salt content of certain foods – bread, cereals and processed foods. Most manufacturers have risen to the challenge, and the salt content of some products has been reduced by 30 to 40 percent.

Do you eat too much salt?

The HSFSA has launched an online salt calculator in partnership with Unilever South Africa. Called Salt Watch, it’s an easy-to-use tool to establish how much salt you eat, and which are the main salty culprits in your diet.
You’ll find it at saltcalculator.co.za

SALTY FACTS

  • Most of the salt in our diet is found in processed foods.
  • Many so-called ‘health foods’ are high in sodium.
  • Bread is the single highest contributor to the total salt intake of South Africans.
  • A high-salt diet is a leading cause of high blood pressure and high blood pressure is the single most important risk factor for stroke.
  • A reduction of salt intake by 2 grams per day reduces cardiovascular events by 20%.
  • The World Health Organization sees hypertension as a bigger health risk than smoking.

Source: Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa

Acknowledgements & Photo credits

Article compiled for Flora Force by Judy Beyer.

References

  1. Bertram et al. Reducing the sodium content of high-salt foods: Effect on cardiovascular disease in South Africa. S Afr Med J 2012;102(9):743-745. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.5832
  2. Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa
  3. Heyes, J.D. High blood pressure becoming a major killer in developing countries. Natural News. November 24, 2016 http://www.naturalnews.com/056131_hypertension_blood_pressure_epidemic.html
  4. Wighton, Kate. High blood pressure affects 1.13 billion people, says new study. Imperial College, London. 2016
    http://www3.imperial.ac.uk/newsandeventspggrp/imperialcollege/newssummary/news_15-11-2016-18-22-42
  5. World Health Organization. Reducing sodium intake to reduce blood pressure and risk of cardiovascular diseases in adults. 2017. http://www.who.int/elena/titles/sodium_cvd_adults/en/

Photo credits

  1. Photo courtesy of kropekk_pl / Pixabay.com