High blood pressure: It#039;s not just about salt

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 22, 2003

It's often called the silent killer.

Twenty percent of the adult population suffers from it, and the problem tends to be most severe in the southeastern United States.

Yet, there are usually no symptoms associated with the disease, and millions don't even know they have it.

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If left untreated, it can lead to stroke, kidney failure, and even death.

This silent killer is high blood pressure (a blood pressure reading greater than 140/90).

High blood pressure, also called hypertension, is a serious health problem that must be corrected.

That is why every American who is at risk of high blood pressure should be periodically screened for the disease.

Most people think salt is the sole cause of high blood pressure.

But while salt intake from foods such as pickles, canned vegetables, processed meats and cheese is a major factor in hypertension, it is only one of several lifestyle factors that contribute to the disease.

Obesity may be an even bigger contributor among some people than salt intake.

The good news is that even modest decreases in body weight, as low as 5 or 10 pounds can result in significant reductions in blood pressure.

Low intakes of two minerals, potassium and magnesium, are also associated with high blood pressure.

These two minerals are found in adequate amounts in fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables and fruit and vegetable juices n another reason why experts encourage consumers to eat five servings a day of fruits and vegetables through the &uot;Five-a-Day&uot; program.

The bottom line:

never overlook the role lifestyle plays in high blood pressure.

If you want to cover all the bases to lower your blood pressure, then get your weight and body fat levels under control and increase your intake of fruits and vegetables and low-fat dairy products.

By all means, quit smoking and develop a physically active lifestyle.

And while you're thinking about it, why not start today?