Bring hypertension to a halt

By Meghan Baker - Contributing columnist

Hypertension is another name for high blood pressure. It is a condition that puts a higher amount of force on the artery walls and can lead to an increase in the risk of heart disease, stroke, and other severe health complications. North Carolina has the 11th highest prevalence of diagnosed high blood pressure among the United States.1 Over one-third, about 2.7 million adults, in North Carolina have been diagnosed with high blood pressure by a health care provider.2 There are likely more adults who have not yet been diagnosed or are in the pre-hypertension stage.

There are factors beyond our control that can contribute to high blood pressure, like age, family history, and race. However, one of the ways to treat or maintain high blood pressure that we have control over is a healthy lifestyle. In most cases, not using tobacco products and reducing alcohol intake can affect blood pressure. Increasing your physical activity will also affect blood pressure. Another main contributor that this article will focusing on is reducing sodium intake and choosing whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat proteins.3

The American Heart Association recommends that we consume less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day and only 1,500 mg per day for adults with high blood pressure. According to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, adults in the United States are consuming about 3,400 mg of sodium per day.4 Most of the sodium we consume comes from processed foods and foods we consume at restaurants. Only a small portion of daily sodium consumed is coming from natural sodium and sodium we add to foods during cooking or at the table.

Knowing this information, we can take steps to reduce or eliminate the extra sodium in our diets:

1. Tips for Eating Out

a. At restaurants ask for dressings and condiments on the side and use them in small amounts.

b. Eat smaller portion sizes by asking for a to-go box when you get your food and split your meal in half.

c. Ask for the nutrition facts or research before so you can select items that are

lower in sodium value.

2. Tips for Grocery Shopping

a. Know the foods that are highly processed and high in sodium. Some of these items are canned soups, salad dressings, condiments, frozen ready to eat meals, and many snack foods. These items should be avoided or used in moderation.

b. Check the Nutrition Facts label when selecting foods. The sodium content will always be on the Nutrition Facts label. If the Percent Daily Value of sodium is listed as 20% or more it is a high source of sodium.

c. Buy products, like canned beans and vegetables, soups, broths, etc. that are sodium-free or low sodium.

3. Tips for Cooking at Home

a. Make your own salad dressings.

b. Rinse canned beans or canned vegetables several times

before cooking or consuming.

c. Season with herbs, spices, vinegar and fruit juices instead of salts.

d. Eat more fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables and low-fat dairy products.

e. Include leaner cuts of meat like skinless chicken breast and seafood in meals.

f. Snack on unsalted nuts instead of pretzels or chips.

Easy Marinara Sauce

Makes approximately 8 cups

Commercial marinara and pasta sauces are often high in sodium and sugar. Making your own can easily reduce sugar and sodium by half.


· 3 tablespoons olive oil

· 1 cup onion, finely diced

· 1/3 cup carrot, shredded

· 4 garlic cloves, minced

· 4 tablespoons tomato paste

· 1 teaspoon dried oregano

· 28 oz. low sodium or sodium free whole tomatoes, canned

· 28 oz. low sodium or sodium free crushed tomatoes, canned

· ½ tsp. salt

· ½ tsp. pepper

· ½ tsp. cayenne pepper

· 1/4 cup fresh basil chopped

· 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped


1. In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, carrot and garlic. Cook until soft, about 5 minutes.

2. Add in tomato paste and cook for 2-3 minutes.

3. Add whole tomatoes (with juice) and gently break apart with the spoon. Then add oregano, crushed tomatoes, salt, pepper and cayenne pepper.

4. Simmer uncovered on low heat for 20 minutes or until sauce reaches desired consistency.

5. If you would like s smooth sauce puree in a blender or use an immersion blender.

6. Stir in chopped basil and parsley and simmer an additional 5-10 minutes.

7. Serve as dipping sauce for eggplant fries, over spaghetti or enjoy in your favorite recipes. Freeze or refrigerate to store.

Recipe provided by Chef Ellen Clevenger-Firley

By Meghan Baker

Contributing columnist

Meghan Baker is a nutrition educator serving Duplin and Sampson counties. She is housed in Duplin County Cooperative Extension Center and can be reached by calling 910-296-2143.

Meghan Baker is a nutrition educator serving Duplin and Sampson counties. She is housed in Duplin County Cooperative Extension Center and can be reached by calling 910-296-2143.