Photo courtesy of Hispanicize

Earlier this week, I was hiking and saw an older man going up and down a steep hill with little complication. When I asked him how old he was, he said he was 61 years old and doing his best to get in shape. He mentioned how his doctor told him to cut out salt and animal products from his diet. He talked about how his blood is circulating slower due to consuming too much salt and products from a “cow.” He pointed out how they also recommended he stop eating sugar as he was leading to being pre-diabetic. Sound familiar?

The Latino community is notoriously known for having hypertension and diabetes. But for the sake of a long essay — let’s focus on hypertension. Hypertension is high blood pressure. It’s a condition “when your blood pressure, the force of your blood pushing against the walls of your blood vessels, is consistently too high,” per the American Heart Association.

Hypertension has become a silent epidemic for Latinos. A multicenter study showed that among U.S. Latinos, the consumption of sodium is too high, simultaneously making their potassium levels low. 

How did this happen? Well, for starters, let’s take a look into traditional Latino eating habits. Foods like flour tortillas, tortilla chips, cheese, and chorizo are listed as sodium-heavy sources. And aren’t those the usual go-to when ordering at restaurants or eating at home?

Additionally, according to the FDA, over 70 percent of our dietary sodium comes from eating packages and prepared foods, despite the common myth that it comes solely from adding salt to our home-cooked meals.

What’s the big deal with this epidemic? Due to your heart working harder than it should from the sodium excess, blood flow can affect arteries and organs. The FDA says this can lead to: “uncontrolled high blood pressure can raise the risk of heart attack, heart failure, stroke, kidney disease, and blindness.”

What can we do to stop this cycle from continuing? We can change our daily habits, including what we serve on the plate daily. We could do this by lowering the consumption of processed and instant foods and focusing more on buying fresh products. The source above also suggests “rinse sodium-containing canned foods, such as beans, tuna, and vegetables before eating,” which helps to remove unnecessary sodium. They also recommend considering the condiments you use to prepare your food. 
So, párale a la sal – we have a lot of life left to live!