Some people get derailed by sweet cravings but for some others like Owolabi, it’s the salty junk foods like crunchy chips, bread, cheese, and big slices of pizza with pepperoni and mushroom that throw them off the “Paleo train”.
There are a lot of processed food across the world that are very high in salt (even though they do not taste salty) but because we get mostly attracted to the appearance of a product or food per se, we subconsciously ignore our thoughts thereby not trying to find out what the content or nutrients of the product is all about and its benefits to our health.
Owolabi never considered the effect of excess salty food on his health until he became so ill that he visited the doctor. During his visitation, the doctor asked Owolabi while taking his vitals if he regularly engaged in physical activities and some other health initiatives. He said no and gave several reasons why he could not keep up with living a healthy life. Sadly, the doctor spelled out his result, summarizing that his blood pressure had exceeded 140/90mmHg. Owolabi was surprised. He couldn’t believe his result because he never had a severe headache or any other symptom that is commonly associated with high BP. Well, we can’t blame him for his ignorance because most people never experience any symptoms.
Small amounts of salt are essential for our health but if consumed above 5g per day (just under a teaspoon) it can be harmful to the body and may cause/precipitate health conditions like hypertension. If left untreated, it may cause health conditions like heart disease and stroke.
Hypertension (also called high blood pressure) is a condition in which the force of the blood against the artery wall is too high. According to the World Health Organization, Africa had the highest proportion of people especially women living with high blood pressure in 2015. It was also reported that it is one of the leading risk factors for global mortality and that in Nigeria, more than 1.5 million cases occur every year. The disease indeed is a silent killer, it is hereditary and can occur in anyone irrespective of age, gender, and race.
Although the exact causes of hypertension are unknown, several factors such as age, family history, excess salt intake, obesity, smoking, physical inactivity, alcohol intake, mental stress, and diabetes may play a critical role in its causes and progression.
Science has not found a cure for hypertension, but the disease can be managed very effectively through the use of medication and maintenance of certain healthy lifestyles. Such as;
- Healthy Eating: For people with high blood pressure (and those at risk of it), a healthy diet is a must. Be sure to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and avoid a diet that is too high in salt, calories, saturated fat, or sugar. There are many healthy diet plans to go for but the best for high blood pressure include limiting sodium (salt) intake and including a variety of nutritious foods.
- Physical Activity: Not getting enough physical activity as part of your lifestyle will increase your risk of getting high blood pressure. It will also impair the chemical outcome of treatment. This is why it is important to engage in physical activity. The health benefits are many, and among them are proven benefits to your heart and circulatory system. Please keep in mind that you don’t have to be an athlete to get all the benefits. And you don’t even have to get all your daily activities in one session.
- Maintaining Healthy Weight: Being obese or overweight puts an extra strain on your heart and circulatory system, and can cause serious health problems. The fatter you are, the harder your heart has to work so as to meet the circulatory needs of your body.
- Stress Management: One thing we don’t know about stress is that stress makes us more likely to eat unhealthy foods, drink too much alcohol, smoke more than usual, and engage in other risky behaviors that are known to have a bad effect on high blood pressure. So, in order to avoid hypertension, manage your time wisely and take your mind off things that may cause stress.
- Limit or Avoid Alcohol Consumption: Alcohol also delivers high calories to our bodies. High calories increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. Drinking too much alcohol raises your blood pressure and is a risk factor for many other serious health conditions. If you do drink alcohol, limit your drinking to no more than two drinks per day (for men) or one drink per day (for women).
- Use of Medication: One of the arterial factors that lead to hypertension is the resistance of the vessel wall to blood flow, especially if the wall of the blood vessel has lost its elasticity. If a patient is hypertensive, he is assessed to determine which of the factor (or its combination) is associated with hypertension.
In case of hypertension due to vascular resistance, your doctor might consider drugs that can relax the stiff blood vessel, thereby allowing blood to flow freely and reducing blood pressure. One of such drugs is Asomex (S-Amlodipine), which is a calcium chemical blocker. Discuss with your doctor to see if it might be appropriate for you.
Remember to take a look at your lifestyle habits today and decide where you can make changes to help prevent hypertension. And check with your doctor to discuss lifestyle changes before making any dramatic changes yourself. Best of luck! #HealthyLiving.