Staying on top of your health requires more than seeing your healthcare provider for an annual check-up. Nutrition and movement are imperative to keeping your health in check. This week’s corner is on sodium. How much we need and what can it do if we have too much?
Sodium i.e. sodium chloride (NaCl) is salt! It is an essential compound our bodies use to absorb and transport nutrients, maintain blood pressure, keep fluid balance, transmit nerve signals and contract and relax muscles. Sodium is also one of the main electrolytes. We get sodium in many foods that are naturally occurring as in tomatoes, celery, egg whites, and many other fruits and vegetables. When it is found in its natural state, usually it is not a problem. This is because is surrounded in conjunction with other compounds making it balanced, not concentrated – taken out on its own, like when we use table salt.
We only need 500mg a day to survive but the recommendation is 1500mgs and not more than 2000mg per day. This may sound like a lot but considering only 1 teaspoon has about 2300mgs it is easy to see how one can go over 1500mgs without much difficulty. The problem is too much can cause hypertension (high blood pressure). This is known as the silent killer, as it is difficult to feel or notice any signs.
A very easy way to start being aware of sodium intake is to self monitor, by reading labels for sodium content and being aware of any added salt you are using. If you eat a lot of packaged, processed, take out, drive through or even many sit in restaurant foods you can be guaranteed to have a high sodium content in those meals. For example, a typical drive thru bacon egg breakfast sandwich is 740mg of sodium and crispy chicken burger is 980mg. So now you are at 1720mg, then add in a traditional Caesar salad at a whopping 1070mg, you are way over the maximum recommendation by 1,400mg.
A great way to make sure your blood pressure is in check is to get a blood pressure machine. This will measure how hard your heart has to work to pump blood throughout your body and the pressure on blood vessel walls. There are 3 different numbers that will be indicated on the screen.
The top number displaced on the screen is your systolic pressure. This indicates the pressure inside the artery when the heart is contracting or when it pumps blood. The bottom number is the diastolic number which indicates the pressure inside the artery when heart is resting, in-between beats.
There is a third number and that is your heart beats per minute (BPM). Measuring your heart rate is another important measure as it is considered an indicator of heart muscle function. Just like your other measures heart rate can be influenced by activity level, stress, caffeine, anxiety, along with a number of other factors as medications, standing, sitting age….
There are certain numbers we should strive to be in, to stay healthy. For BPM, the average heart rate for a healthy adult is between 60 and 100 beats per minute. For blood pressure the normal range is 120 for systolic and 80 for diastolic. Anything out of normal range you should see your doctor. Numbers out of normal ranges are red flags that indicate you should seriously think about changing your diet and or adding in an exercise regime. Don’t rely on medication alone – help yourself along with medication by eating well and getting some daily activity for longevity and quality of life!