Health and Wellness

Novartis warns of unhealthy habits that raise your blood pressure

Health care and  Cardiovascular diseases  concept
Health care and Cardiovascular diseases concept
Unhealthy eating habits could literally be the death of you.

Remember the old saying ‘take it with a pinch of salt’ was sorta meant to be a positive one? It was basically implying that a pinch of salt is of little consequence.

But for those with high blood pressure and chronic heart conditions, that pinch of salt could be enough to push your daily salt intake into dangerous territory.

Woman refusing salt. Health care concept, hypertension prevention
Health care concept, hypertension prevention

Dr Thomas Kowallik, CEO and Country President of Novartis South Africa, says excessive salt intake is one of several factors increasing the risk of hypertension (high blood pressure). “World Hypertension Day on 17 May seeks to raise awareness of the health risks associated with hypertension, and the steps people can take to lower their risks of developing hypertension.”


According to the International Society of Hypertension, hypertension is the major risk factor for cardiovascular disease and was named ‘the number-one killer’ by the World Health Organization (WHO) in The World Health Report in 2002.
People with hypertension have a four times higher risk of stroke and twice the risk of myocardial infarction (a heart attack) of those with normal blood pressure, says the Society. Lifestyle factors, such as physical inactivity, a salt-rich diet with highly processed and fatty foods, and alcohol and tobacco use, are cited as reasons for the rapid increase in the number of people with hypertension worldwide.

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“South Africans have unacceptably high levels of hypertension, with up to 30% of adults known to be hypertensive2. High salt consumption is a key driver of hypertension, and there is strong evidence to indicate that South Africans consume up to 2-3 times the recommended daily allowance of 5 g,” says Kowallik.

Nurse Visiting Senior Female Patient At Home Taking Blood Pressure Smiling

“Salt from processed food makes up as much as 75% of total salt intake in high-income countries. South Africans tend to follow international trends to include unhealthy processed foods in their diet, and on top of that, they season their meals with liberal sprinklings of salt. This is dangerous behavior, particularly among those with high blood pressure or heart disease,” says Kowallik.

He notes that the Department of Health’s salt reduction targets for 2013 – 2019, along with increased awareness among consumers, could help reduce deaths and chronic illness caused by hypertension in South Africa.

According to World Action on Salt and Health, a high salt intake is associated with raised blood pressure, which is a major cause of cardiovascular disease, responsible for 62% of stroke and 49% of coronary heart disease.  

Clogged artery and atherosclerosis disease medical concept with a three dimensional human artery with blood cells that is blocked by plaque buildup of cholesterol as a symbol of arteriosclerotic vascular diseases.
Clogged artery; arteriosclerotic vascular diseases.

There is also considerable evidence that the onset of heart failure could be delayed or even prevented by modifying risk factors and controlling hypertension, and a reduction in sodium intake reduces blood pressure in people both with and without hypertension.

“Studies have found a significant association between sodium intake and all stroke, fatal stroke, and fatal coronary heart disease events.

Clearly, it is important to restrict salt intake to healthy levels to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, and for patients at risk of stroke or coronary heart disease to be particularly careful to follow their doctors’ guidelines on sodium intake,” says Kowallik. “However, this does not mean one should eliminate all salt from one’s diet. Sodium is an essential nutrient, required for normal physiological function.”

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People with, or considered at risk, of stroke or heart disease should take extra care to ensure that they keep their salt intake well below the recommended maximum of 5g a day.

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