My granddad was in his 80’s when he had a stroke. It affected his ability to carry on a conversation, and he started to forget who family members were.
Granddad’s post-stroke care was more than grandma could handle and he had to leave their home on the farm for a care-home in town. Strokes can hit a family hard. While stroke is more common in those over 65 years of age, anyone, even children, can have strokes. According to the Canadian Heart & Stroke Foundation, high blood pressure is the number one risk factor for stroke. It is often called the “silent killer” because we can’t feel when our blood pressure is high. About one in five (20%) of Canadians have high blood pressure.
Since controlling blood pressure can reduce the risk of stroke by 40% it seems reasonable to become informed and take steps to prevent high blood pressure, or at least manage high blood pressure. High blood pressure can be caused by a number of factors, many of which are controllable (See the Heart & Stroke Foundation’s website for more information). One of the factors that you can control is the amount of sodium (salt) you eat each day.
Too much sodium in the blood can draw fluid into the blood vessels and increase the pressure against the vessel walls. The majority (about 77%) of the sodium in Canadian’s diets comes from processed foods, with the average Canadian taking in more than double the recommended daily amount of sodium (1500 mg) [lower for those over 50 years old].
Restaurant meals, fast foods, and pre-packaged meals tend to be high in sodium. Much like blood pressure, sodium is often hidden.
Many high sodium foods don’t taste salty at all. For example, I made burritos at home last weekend and was surprised to read that each tortilla contained 16% of the Daily Value for sodium. When I added in the refried beans, grated cheese and salsa, my meal was quite high in sodium, especially considering that I had two burritos. Next time I’m shopping for ingredients I will compare their sodium contents and look for lower sodium versions.
While sodium is just one factor influencing blood pressure, blood pressure is such an important risk factor for stroke that it makes a lot of sense to be more aware of the amount of sodium that is hidden within foods that we eat every day.