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May 17, 2018

Healthy Living: the Link between ‘Pressure’ and Salt

Reducing the use of salt is a priority for health officials in Belize to prevent and contain the risk of heart diseases. The focus this year on the occasion of World Hypertension Day is to raise awareness about hypertension, more commonly known as high blood pressure which causes heart attacks and strokes. Healthy Living tonight looks at how cutting back on the use of sodium and turning to herbal seasoning can make a difference. 

 

Marleni Cuellar, Reporting

The WHO has set a target of reducing salt intake globally by thirty percent by the year 2025. Why, because many people consume too much salt and it may lead to chronic diseases like hypertension. On World Hypertension Day, health officials take the opportunity to educate on the dangers of this condition, as explained by Doctor Jorge Polanco.

 

Jorge Polanco

Dr. Jorge Polanco, Coordinator INCAP Belize, NCD Focal Point for PAHO

“The reason is that Hypertension is a very strong contributor to cardiovascular diseases in general by that we mean complications of hypertension such as heart attacks, strokes, and of course at the end of the day when those diseases are not managed properly we have kidney failure which is nothing new to Belize.”

 

Hypertension is when the pressure of the blood being pumped through the body is higher than it should be. The chronic condition is one that is often called a silent killer as many are unaware of the signs and symptoms and only find out when they develop complications.  Unfortunately, this strain on the system if it remains undetected can very well lead to death.

 

Dr. Jorge Polanco

“What are the typical causes why one would develop hypertension? There are multiple reasons, one is a poor diet. I will repeat again because that is the theme an excessive consumption of salt which we know the WHO has estimated in 2017 a report of 2017 that of the forty million of deaths due to chronic diseases, 22 million were related to cardiovascular diseases and out of those over forty percent were related cardiovascular diseases related to high blood pressure. We know that smoking plays a role, as I said earlier, the lack of physical activity, obesity. There is some a role in the genetic component but that would be to a minor level.”

 

Globally, there is a campaign to know your number but in Belize our focus is on reducing sodium intake. Nutritionist with the Ministry of Health, Robyn Daly, explains.

 

Robyn Daly

Robyn Daly, Nutritionist, Ministry of Health

“Sodium is the actual element. Salt has in sodium and when we look at other seasonings like MSG, onion salt, garlic salt, those are additional additives that are added to salt so it increases the salt and sodium content. We’re not seeing as much herbal seasoning that we would like to see so we would like to encourage people to prepare foods using more herbal seasonings and rely less on the bottle seasons. The Consume, the complete seasoning, the season all, all these things have high salt types of salt added so the sodium content is high.”

 

Dr. Jorge Polanco

“The truth is that what an individual consumes in regard to salt per day is not only what the cook puts in while the lunch is being prepared or breakfast. Throughout the day if they eat snacks. Those snacks are saturated with salt. in the region of central America a study was recently done where you would be surprised to know that practically all the I will use the word “snacks’ or junk food have more than double the amount salt that should be present. We’re speaking of diverse beverages, spices, dressings, soups, cereals, pastas, milks cheeses, biscuits in general, tortillas deserts, all of them had more than two times the level study that is recommended and this is for central America this is a study done in 2013.”

 

Robyn Daly

“There are different recommendations. WE have WHO the World Health Organization and we have FDA which is the food drug administration and they give different recommendations. The general recommendation is, and I’ll just generalize, it’s about having about three quarter or point seven-five teaspoon. So it’s a little less than a teaspoon of salt per day we’re recommending.”

 

The goal is to encourage Belizeans to use the less than one teaspoon of salt and use more natural foods to flavor. As a start, the Ministry of Health and PAHO are working with forty street vendors in Belize City to teach them how to use less salt in their own food preparation.

 

Robyn Daly

“Telling people to not use less salt will not work. So we have to show them and do demonstrations encouraging them to prepare foods and cook foods using less salt and using more natural flavorings. The natural flavorings, there is a certain way you prepare natural seasonings to make it come out in food and not really make the food very bland. So just having someone show the basic preparation and also what types of seasonings you can mix with certain foods can make them more tasty is what we want to do and where we want to go with that.  We can’t tell people to cut salt out of their diet completely but just have less is the recommendation. Reduce sodium intake.”

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