Originally published for the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation of South Africa (HSFSA) is taking the lead from the World Action on Salt and Health (WASH) in order to reinvigorate South Africa’s salt reduction efforts. During World Salt Awareness Week taking place from the 12th to 18th March, we will be highlighting 5 simple changes that you can make to help you achieve the global recommended limit of 5 grams of salt per day. Achieving this could potentially prevent 1.65 million deaths worldwide, from cardiovascular disease each year! #5ways5grams


Why is extra salt bad for the body?

Our body actually needs salt to survive, but only in small amounts. So, the problem really lies in the amount that we are eating. Excessive salt intake is directly associated with raised blood pressure which may eventually lead to hypertension. This is particularly relevant to South Africa where we see a shocking 46% of women and 44% of men age 15 years and older have hypertension which makes them vulnerable to having a stroke or suffering heart disease. High blood pressure is responsible for 1 in 2 strokes and 2 in 5 heart attacks in South Africa.


The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends limiting salt intake to no more than 5 grams per person per day, which is equivalent to 1 level teaspoon.  South Africans however, cook with salty ingredients, add extra salt at the table and choose processed foods with hidden salt, resulting in them consuming on average 8.5g of salt per day.


5 ways to achieve 5 grams

Try these 5 simple changes that you and your family can make that will help you to lower your daily salt intake.

  1. CUT DOWN GRADUALLY. Gradually add less salt to your favourite recipes – your taste buds will soon adapt
  2. FLAVOUR MEALS. Use herbs, spices, garlic, ginger, chilli and lemon to flavor foods rather than extra salt
  3. CHECK FOOD LABELS when shopping to help you identify those lowest in sodium (salt) and look out for the Heart Mark logo which is an endorsement of the HSFSA!
  4. REMOVE THE SALT SHAKER. Take salt and salty sauces off the table so that younger family members won’t develop this salty habit
  5. EAT MORE FRUIT AND VEGETABLES. The minerals in these as well as whole grains, lentils, beans, and low-fat dairy, help to lower blood pressure. Remember to drain and rinse canned vegetables and beans.


Get your blood pressure checked for FREE!

In support of Salt Awareness Week, Dis-Chem Pharmacies are offering FREE blood pressure testing at all their clinics nationwide from 16th March till 8th April. All adults are recommended to test their blood pressure at least once every year. Most people with high blood pressure don’t know its high because there are rarely any symptoms to warn you. That is why it is often called a “silent killer”. Get your blood pressure checked to know your risk, it can save your life!


What else can I do to protect against high blood pressure?

There are some other dietary and lifestyle changes you could make to prevent or reduce high blood pressure, such as:

  • Drink less alcohol. Drinking too much alcohol can raise your blood pressure. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation, which is no more than 1 drink a day for women and 2 drinks a day for men. One drink is a small glass of wine (120 ml), a can of beer (340 ml) or a tot of any spirits (25 ml).
  • Move more! Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity 5 times a week. Regular exercise helps to lower high blood pressure, reduces risk of heart disease and stroke and helps to manage stress and release tension, among numerous other benefits.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. If you are overweight, even losing a small amount of weight may help lower your blood pressure and reduce the strain on your heart. Maintaining a healthy weight provides several health benefits.
  • Avoid smoking and/or being present in a place where others are smoking. Smoking almost triples the risk of heart disease. It narrows blood vessels which increases blood pressure.


Salt Awareness Week 2018 Activities

  • Look out for our “Your body does not want the extra salt” Campaign on national TV and at taxi ranks, funded by the National Lotteries Fund (NLC) and supported by the National Department of Health. Watch the campaign video here.
  • Social media – join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter using #5ways5grams