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Heart Health Author: Staff Editor Last Updated: Dec 5, 2012 - 3:00:28 PM

Don’t Let Hypertension be the Holiday Grinch

By Staff Editor
Dec 5, 2012 - 6:00:40 PM

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( - Willpower tends to take a back seat during the holidays. For people with hypertension, however, the damage of unhealthy eating can have particularly negative consequences.

About one in four Americans has hypertension, a condition that elevates blood pressure and can lead to a host of serious problems, including heart attacks and strokes. People with hypertension generally should eat no more than about 1,500 milligrams (mg) of salt each day in addition to taking their prescribed medications.

"I advise patients to allow themselves one special meal for a holiday, but not to continue unhealthy eating habits for several days or weeks," says Dr. Shawna Nesbitt, a hypertension specialist at UT Southwestern Medical Center. "Leftovers are what sabotage people."

Since just one teaspoon of table salt has more than 2,300 mg of sodium, it's important to account for each meal and snack. On average, people in America consume about 3,400 mg of sodium each day.

"Holidays are a time of tradeoffs. If you know you're going to have an ample dinner with a lot of salt, you need to have a very low-sodium breakfast and lunch," Dr. Nesbitt says. "And be sure you don't go over your daily salt limit."

Visit to learn more about UT Southwestern's clinical services for heart, lung and vascular conditions, including hypertension.


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