Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death in Singapore. According to statistics released by the Singapore Heart Foundation (SHF) in 2020, 19 people die from heart disease and stroke every day. This risk has become higher in our current pandemic situation where infection with COVID-19 can lead to serious complications in patients with underlying heart conditions.
CVD has many causes – and genetics is one of them. But an underlying condition that is often overlooked is hypertension or high blood pressure. Left unchecked, it can lead to serious heart problems, such as increasing your risk of having a heart attack and stroke.
It is also a more common disease than is generally believed. Just under one in four people aged 30 to 69 have high blood pressure. In a stressful city environment like Singapore, this might sound normal, but it has a lot more to do with certain lifestyle choices than meeting deadlines at work.
One of the causes of high blood pressure is eating a high sodium intake in your diet. This is why the virtual National Heart Week / World Heart Day 2021, organized by the SHF, is focused on raising awareness of the link between hypertension and sodium intake. Taking place from September 18 to October 3, 2021, the virtual event will offer a program of activities such as health talks and a cooking workshop, as well as the exciting Hugopoly, an interactive one-player online game, to educate the public. on the risks of prolonged excessive sodium intake, and how to adopt a low sodium diet.
This begs the question: how much sodium should we be consuming?
How much sodium is there?
The recommended daily sodium limit is 2000 mg per day, which is equivalent to 5 g or Â¾ of a teaspoon of salt. But figures released by the Department of Health estimate Singaporeans consume nearly 3,600 mg of sodium or 9 g of salt per day, nearly double the recommended daily allowance.
This excess sodium increases blood pressure and can lead to serious health complications over time, says Mr. Lim Kiat, senior nutritionist at SHF. âToo much sodium in the diet will cause the body to retain water and increase blood volume. As a result, this forces the heart to work harder, which results in higher blood pressure, which in turn can lead to complications such as heart disease, kidney disease and stroke, âhe explains.
What makes it more difficult is that there is a lot of sodium hidden in the foods we eat. Even more in Asian cuisine rich in condiments. For example, the ubiquitous soy sauce contains almost 920 mg of sodium per tablespoon, shrimp paste contains over 1,400 mg, and monosodium glutamate, which is the mainstay of most soup dishes, contains over 2000 mg of sodium per tbsp. Curry pastes and processed bouillon cubes also contain high amounts of sodium. This means that it is possible to exceed your daily sodium limit in just one meal.
Having said that, it is also important to understand the importance of sodium to our body. “The human body needs a small amount of sodium, estimated at less than 500 mg per day, for vital body functions such as nerves and muscle functions, and to maintain a good balance between water and blood. minerals, âsays Lim.
Your daily sodium intake, however, can easily be achieved with three regular meals a day, even without the addition of salt. “For example, by simply consuming fresh foods like two eggs, two slices of wholemeal or white bread, a palm-sized salmon and a chicken breast, without seasoning or spreading, you will get 541 mg of sodium. “, explains Mr. Lim.
Take the first steps towards better health
If there’s anything the pandemic has highlighted, it’s the importance of good health, and there’s no better time than now to take this step in the right direction. But that doesn’t mean eating tasteless and bland foods, either.
Along with information on the importance and benefits of a low sodium lifestyle, the SHF website offers tips on how to keep track of sodium intake. The site also offers easy-to-prepare recipes such as Fried Salmon with Brown Rice Vermicelli and Chicken Burger with Rainbow Salad, among others, which will ease the transition to a low sodium lifestyle.
SHF has also launched interactive resources such as Hugopoly, a single-player game that motivates everyone to make heart-healthy choices in their lives. In this game, participants move around the board to roll virtual dice. When they land on some special tiles such as Luck and Hearty Chest, they must answer a pop-up question. Each correct answer earns them points, which they can accumulate and use to redeem attractive prizes such as a Philips Airfryer, FairPrice vouchers, a free CPR + AED certification course, and more.
5 ways to reduce sodium in your diet
Whether you cook at home or dine out, it can be difficult to maintain a low sodium diet. These simple tips and tricks can make your job easier.
Read the label
While cooking your own meals is a healthier option, it can be counterproductive if you use ingredients that are high in sodium. Look for items labeled with the Healthy Choice âLow Sodiumâ symbol. Be sure to read the nutritional information provided as well – and select products that are low in sodium (based on the âper 100gâ breakdown).
Temper the seasoning
Salt is naturally present in low amounts in all foods, so any addition equals double seasoning, especially when it comes to foods that have been marinated. Always do a taste test when cooking, and when salt is required, go for the low sodium variety.
Some dishes do not require salt at all – in fact, fresh or dried herbs and some spices impart a similar touch of flavor, and more. Onions, garlic, and ginger, as well as spices such as chili, pepper, and turmeric are effective for seasoning, making the addition of salt unnecessary.
Leave the soup behind
When dining out, it’s important to find ways to control your sodium intake. When it comes to your favorite hawker dish, just one meal can put you on top of your daily sodium intake limit, thanks to the high amounts of MSG typically found in soup.
For example, a bowl of sliced ââfish soup and mee soto contains 1413 mg and 1537 mg of sodium, respectively. So enjoy the food, just make sure you leave the soup behind.
Be aware of the curry
The same goes for curries or dishes with gravy. The sodium content in these dishes can be between 71% and 90% of your daily recommended sodium intake, so avoid drinking all of the sauce.
Visit the event website at myheart.org.sg/world-heart-day for more heart health information, a cooking demo, a variety of health talks and virtual exercises you can follow. at home.