Simple substitutions to help lower your risk of stroke

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

In Australia one person suffers a stroke every 10 minutes. According to the Stroke Foundation, high blood pressure is the most important known risk factor when it comes to stroke. To help lower your risk of high blood pressure and stroke try these five simple foodie swaps.

1 Swap processed for fresh

A high intake of sodium (salt) has been shown to increase our risk of high blood pressure. Processed and packaged foods are high in sodium and salt is often added as a preservative to foods. Australians consume about 80% of their sodium from processed or packaged foods so stick to fresh food wherever possible. Fruits, vegetables, legumes, fresh meats, poultry, milk and yoghurt are naturally low in sodium. If you swap 50g of chicken deli loaf for 80g cooked chicken breast you would save almost 380mg sodium, that’s one sixth of your upper limit for the day.

2 Swap higher for lower on the label

When selecting packaged foods aim to choose those that are lower in sodium. Not all foods that are high in sodium taste salty so remember to read the label! There are a few ways to do this…

  • Look for products that say ‘low in salt’, ‘reduced salt’ or ‘no added salt’.
  • Familiarise yourself with the per 100g column on the nutrition information panel. This is useful when comparing two similar products. Aim to choose the one that is lower in sodium per 100g.
  • An even better option is to look for products that are lower than or equal to 400mg sodium per 100g or better still low salt foods that are less than 120mg per 100g.

3 Swap salt for spices

The salt we add at the table or during cooking generally makes up 20% of our sodium intake. Instead of using salt or high salt ingredients such as sauces try low sodium flavours like herbs, spices, lemon juice, lime juice, vinegar or garlic. Swapping one tablespoon of soy sauce for a mix of herbs, garlic and lemon juice will save 1370mg sodium – that’s more than half your upper limit for the day.

4 Swap energy dense foods for nutrient dense foods

Eating a good mix of fruit, vegetables, legumes, milk, yoghurt and wholegrains has been shown to help lower blood pressure. The benefits of these foods go beyond the fact that they are lower in sodium. These foods are also nutrient dense, that is they give us more ‘bang for our buck’. They provide us with a wealth of nutrients and when eaten in a usual serving size they don’t overload us with kilojoules. This can assist with weight management. Weight management is often important when it comes to blood pressure and stroke risk. If we are overweight or obese even small weight losses can start to help lower blood pressure.

Aim to limit those foods that are energy dense. They give us more kilojoules and little nutrition. Foods such as cakes, biscuits, pastries, chocolate, soft drink and alcohol are considered energy dense and can make it harder to manage our weight.

5 Swap excessive for moderation

Too much of anything can often cause a problem and this is the case when it comes to alcohol. For those who choose to drink reducing your intake to no more than two standard drinks per day is recommended. Depending on your situation you may need to reduce your intake further.

When it comes to high blood pressure we generally do not experience many signs or symptoms. It is essential to have your blood pressure regularly checked by your doctor. It is also important to discuss with your doctor other important aspects of managing blood pressure such as medication and/or stress management.


Join our community of over 45,000 people living with diabetes