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Hypertension may be the result of what you eat


Sodium Content of Chinese Sauces (PDF) in English.

Watch Out! The (Salty) Suspects are in Your Kitchen (PDF) in English.

According to data from the American Heart Association, 54% of the population in the 55-64 age group has hypertension. Further, 20% of the population in the age group 35-44 also has hypertension. This means that while hypertension is more likely to occur as one gets older, it is not only a disease of the elderly. Being younger doesn’t exclude one from having hypertension.

“Hypertension is closely related to diet,” says Dr. Edward Yu, a specialist in family medicine. “Hypertension may be a result of what you eat every day.” He went on to say that excessive salt can upset the balance of sodium and water in the body, which can increase stress on the heart and blood vessels and lead to hypertension.  

According to Dr. Yu, daily sodium intake should be less than one teaspoon (2300mg). People with hypertension should consume even less. Avoiding processed foods such as Chinese sausages and cured meats and dining out less frequently are good ways to reduce sodium intake.

“Without looking at the labels, no one would realize that fish sauce has very high sodium content,” said Dr. Yu. Unfortunately, many Chinese like to use sauces that are high in sodium. Just a slight increase can push sodium intake over the daily recommended value. Dr. Yu further explained that reducing sodium intake isn’t just about ingesting less salt.

Food prepared at home allows people to better control sodium as opposed to dining out. When cooking at home, Dr. Yu suggests using olive oil, black pepper, white pepper, garlic, onions, and ginger for seasoning. “Dishes can still be tasty without sacrificing health,” stressed Dr. Yu.

On the other hand, chicken powder, MSG, shrimp paste, soy sauce, oyster sauce, broad bean sauce, hoisin sauce, and Chinese barbecue sauce all contain high levels of sodium. For example, every teaspoon of chicken powder has 900mg of sodium, close to a third of the recommended daily value. Additional examples of food with high sodium include preserved egg, dry salted fish, thousand-year old egg, Chinese sausage, bean curd, Chinese roast pork, Chinese ham, instant noodles, pork floss, preserved fruit, and other common Chinese edibles. Instant noodles, for example, often contain sodium levels that are close to the daily recommended value. Dr. Yu recommends eating fewer of these foods and replacing them with options lower in sodium.

Hypertension is also closely related to lifestyle and daily habits, noted Dr. Yu. For example, a patient may come into the clinic with hypertension and be given medication to treat the problem.  However, after retiring from work, that same patient might begin to experience lightheadedness and subsequently be diagnosed as hypotensive (having low blood pressure). It could be that the patient’s original hypertension was a result of work-related stress.  Now that the patient is retired and work-related stress is no longer a factor, the blood pressure normalized.   It’s important to note that stopping medications or reducing dosage are decisions that should be discussed with the doctor and not be made alone.

Dr. Yu
Ask Doctor

World Journal
Monday, September 14, 2015
by Richard Lee

Doctor’s Profile:
Dr. Edward M. Yu specializes in Family Medicine. Dr. Yu was born in Seattle, and at the age of six moved to Hong Kong with his father.  Dr. Yu received a Bachelor’s Degree in Genetics from UC Davis, and a Medical Degree from UCLA, where he completed his internship and residency in Family Medicine. He joined the medical staff at El Camino Hospital in 1997.  Dr. Yu speaks Mandarin Chinese and Cantonese.

This article first appeared in the World Journal and the Spring 2016 issue of the Chinese Health Initiative Wellness eNewsletter. Learn more about the Chinese Health Initiative.