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November 21, 2011 by Dean Simmons, Registered Dietitian

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When I was younger I used to watch ‘Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous’ when I got home after school. Now, whenever I hear someone talk about ‘lifestyles,’ I can’t help but hear the nasal voice of Robin Leach, the show’s British host, narrating the message.

That TV show aired from the mid 1980’s to mid 1990’s, what now seems like eons ago. It’s a new century, and nowadays we are likely to hear as much  about leading ‘healthy lifestyles’ as we are about the lifestyles of the rich and famous.

As part of a healthy lifestyle, we are often advised to cut back on our salt intake. This recommendation is primarily made to help people to keep their blood pressure within a healthy range (less than 120/80 mm Hg).

We hear a lot about salt contributing to high blood pressure and the need to decrease the amount of salt in our meals.  The other day, while reading a magazine, I was reminded that there are many lifestyle factors that have been shown to be effective at preventing and managing high blood pressure.

Here they are:

Lifestyle Changes Recommendation Approximate Reduction in
Systolic Blood Pressure**
Lose excess body weight Maintain a healthy body weight 5 to 20 points (for about every 20 lbs of excess weight reduced)
Follow the DASH Diet (similar to Canada’s Food Guide) Eat meals that are rich in fruits, vegetables and low fat dairy products with a reduced amount of saturated and total fat. 8-14 points
Lower your sodium intake Get no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium (aim for 1,500 mg) 2 to 8 points
Get active
(call the Physical Activity Line (PAL) for more information)
Get at least 30 minutes of aerobic activity (e.g. walking, swimming, cycling) on most days 4 to 9 points
Limit alcohol Have no more than: 2 standard drinks per day for men, or 1 for women 2 to 4 points

** the first number in a blood pressure reading, for example the 140 in 140/90 mm Hg

Adapted from The Seventh Report of the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure

I like to imagine Robin Leach describing these healthy lifestyles. He is looking dapper, dressed in fine clothes and standing in front of a mansion. In his instantly recognizable voice he proclaims “Welcome to Lifestyles of the People Who Have Healthy Blood Pressure!” Then, in his gossipy way he draws us in by telling us who eats the most fabulous veggies, and who has been getting active on the court or fairway.

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Comments (5)

Cynthia

Posted on Tuesday November 22, 2011 a 5:36pm

Gotta get my kids off their computers and exercising! We have cut down on salt and eat a healthy diet. But they are not getting 30 minutes of aerobic activity daily and I worry about them.

cpetelski's picture

HealthyFamilies BC

Posted on Monday November 28, 2011 a 4:33pm

Thanks for your comments Cynthia and missy77. Cynthia, if you are looking for free expert advice to help your family to get more active I would recommend calling PAL (the Physical Activity Line). The staff are all Certified Exercise Physiologists and are dedicated to helping people become more active. They are available from 9-5 Monday to Friday. Their toll-free number is 1.877.725.1149. Good luck! - Dean Simmons

CindyD.

Posted on Wednesday November 30, 2011 a 9:21pm

Bravo! Finally the recognition that there are better and more effective ways of managing health issues generally, and high blood pressure specifically, than simply reducing sodium in your diet. Almost every article on this site associates reducing salt intake with a healthy lifestyle and lower blood pressure without acknowledging that people actually have different sodium requirements - people with weak adrenal glands (which is a lot of us due to our stressful daily lives) or very active people for example require more salt than perhaps someone that eats a lot of processed food and is a couch potato. Too low a sodium diet creates as many issues as too high. Another comment - I did see in the "Get the Facts on Sodium" section that sea salt et al contained the same amount of sodium as table salt and likewise was deemed the latter was just as "healthy". Surely such a simplistic statement provides no real value and in fact is misleading. Perhaps you could speak to the distinction betwen (sun dried) sea salt which contains many beneficial minerals vs. highly refined, chemical processed iodized table salt? Thank-you

cpetelski's picture

HealthyFamilies BC

Posted on Friday December 2, 2011 a 6:12pm

Thanks for your response and question CindyD. I’m happy to hear that you appreciated reading about the main lifestyle factors that influence blood pressure in this posting. With regard to your question, you might be interested in reading my Awash with Sea Salt posting from July. Unrefined sea salt is chiefly composed of sodium chloride (like table salt) with small amounts of other minerals (mainly calcium, magnesium, potassium and sulfate). While there are a number of health claims made for unrefined sea salt, scientific research has not provided any evidence to support these claims. If you prefer to use unrefined sea salt instead of table salt, please keep in mind that even unrefined sea salt is very high in sodium, which is known to have a blood pressure raising effect. To help maintain a healthy blood pressure, it is advised to use any kind of salt (including unrefined sea salt) in small amounts in addition to other lifestyle factors like eating a healthy diet, being active and maintaining a healthy body weight. - Dean

camandad

Posted on Friday December 2, 2011 a 8:07am

Years ago, I found out that I had an intollerance to grains, I began to eat a lot more fruit, vegetables and meats mainly because there was nothing else left to eat. I also found my sodium intake greatly reduced because I avoided canned and packaged foods because of their wheat content. My grain free, proccessed food free diet was forced upon me and I am healthier for it.

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