The following guest post was written by Mara Silverio, Multicultural Communications Manager, American Heart Association’s National Public and Media Relations.
April is National Minority Health Month. This designation by the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Minority Health helps raise awareness of health disparities and encourage action to reduce inequities.
The American Heart Association’s multicultural movement, Empowered To Serve, is taking action by “changing perceptions” during National Minority Health Month.
Did you know?
New survey findings from the American Heart Association show that minority populations are more likely to incorrectly believe that special training and certification are required to perform Hands-Only CPR. The study also revealed that minorities are more likely to be hesitant to perform the skill for fear of causing injury.
In this case and many others, misperceptions contribute to poor health outcomes and poor survival rates. Examining and changing our incorrect perspectives is an important step to improve health and reduce cardiovascular diseases.
Sodium Perceptions vs. Reality
Sodium consumption is a key factor to monitor and control, especially among minorities. Social determinants of health -- the social, economic and environmental conditions in which people live – play a lead role in shaping our thinking and our choices from an early age.
- Perception: If you grew up eating salty foods, healthier options will always taste bland.
Reality: Over time, your taste buds can adjust to prefer less salt. As you take steps to reduce sodium gradually, you’ll start to appreciate foods for their true flavor.
- Perception: Sodium has the same health impact on everyone.
- Reality: Sodium intake affects blood pressure even more dramatically in people who are sensitive to salt.
A recent scientific statement identifies sensitivity to salt as an emerging cardiovascular risk factor. It notes several variables that may influence how your blood pressure changes when you eat salt, including:
- Some clinical conditions (like diabetes, hypertension, or chronic kidney disease)
Even if you don’t have high blood pressure, cutting back on excess salt can be beneficial. Blood pressure naturally increases as people get older, but cutting back on sodium can limit or delay that process. By one estimate, 90 percent of all American adults are expected to develop high blood pressure in their lifetime.
The good news is that eating healthy, and participating in regular physical activity can be a big help.
- Perception: Canned fruits and vegetables are not good for you.
- Reality: Canned fruits and vegetables can be healthy options to add nutritional value into your meals, but you do need to be mindful of sodium and added sugars.
Tips: Select canned and frozen fruit and vegetables without salty sauces or sugary syrups. Drain and rinse canned products to get rid of some of the additives like salt and sugar.
Here are a few other ways to reduce your sodium intake:
- Read and compare food labels to make healthier choices.
- Prepare food at home to have more control over the amount of sodium you eat.
- Reduce and replace salt used in cooking or at the table with herbs, spices, citrus juice, or flavored vinegars.
- Request foods prepared with less salt when dining out.
Keep exploring other perceptions you might have about health. Be the change by taking action and “changing perceptions” during this National Minority Health Month.
For more information and to access culturally tailored resources, visit empoweredtoserve.org.
Mara Silverio, Multicultural Communications Manager, American Heart Association’s National Public and Media Relations.