HAPPY New Year, dear readers. By now, you have welcome 2010 in your own unique way, as usual hoping for a year much, much better than the past one.

And of course, the entry of 2010 into our lives is never complete without the requisite “new year’s resolution.” For some, it’s a change in attitude or behavior, like mother-in-law promising to be kinder and gentler in dealing with their daughters-in-law; or an employee making a firm resolve not to be late anymore or a teacher who decides not to sell tocino anymore to her pupils.

For updates from around the country, follow Sun.Star on Twitter

For the most part however, it’s a significant change in lifestyle related to health that people usually list down as their priority every new year. Probably, a chain smoker bargains with his wife that he will smoke only while he’s in the comfort room or the alcoholic swearing to high heavens that his daily intake would be reduced to just one finger- not horizontally-placed but vertically positioned.

Or the humongous obese stare at you direct in the eye with all the courage she can muster and declares, “I won’t destroy weighing scales anymore’!

The list of resolutions is long, virtually limitless. Of course, we are also aware that, as fast as these promises are made, the next moment they are broken. Well, if there are any extra terrestrials out there, they would find human species a very interesting psychological case study!

Seriously now, a decision to cut down on sodium may be just one important move an adult can do. Our body needs sodium (normal plasma level is 138-142 meq per liter) to work properly.

However, most people eat too much, often without realizing it. Too much sodium in the blood retains water which then increase the amount of blood (normal is 5 liters) circulating in the blood vessels throughout the body, thus exerting extra burden and workload on you heart. It is obvious therefore that reducing sodium in your diet help you lower your blood pressure and that’s important because hypertensive people are more likely to develop heart attack or stroke. Heart disease is the number l cause of death in the US while CVA-stroke is No. 3.

The average adult eats about 2900 to 4300 mg of sodium a day. To be healthy, it is recommended that you should even eat less than 2300 mg sodium per day. Some high-risk individuals- African Americans, middle-aged and older adults and diagnosed hypertensives, need less than 1500 mg of sodium per day.

A change in your eating habits should therefore follow the recommendations of the American Heart Association which includes DASH - Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension - diet which is low in saturated fats, transfat- hydrogenated fat like margarine and cholesterol.

Your plate should have bountiful fruits and vegetables, whole grain foods, low-fat dairy products, fish and nuts.

When doing groceries especially for packaged and processed foods, check the sodium content on the Nutrition Facts label for words like disodium phosphate, sodium benzoate, sodium hydroxide, sodium nitrite, sodium propionate and sodium sulfite. Vetsin or MSG or monosodium glutamate, baking soda and baking powder are loaded with sodium.

There is also a lot of “hidden sodium” in anchovies, bacon, bouillon cubes, butter milk, cheese, potato chips, corn chips, cocoa mixes, frankfurters (3/4 beef, Pork and turkey), frozen dinners, meat tenderizers, mustard, green olives, pickles, pizza, processed meats like ham, corned beef, pastrami, pepperoni, salami, bologna, sauerkraut, canned soups, soy sauce, steak sauce, Worcestershire sauce.

To help counteract the hypertensive effects of sodium, people are encouraged to eat potassium-rich food. The foods particularly rich in potassium, which we advise to our patients on diuretic therapy to lower their blood pressure include bananas, honeydew melon, cantaloupe, apricots, oranges, potatoes, prunes, soybeans, spinach, sweet potatoes and fat-free yoghurt.

On top of this, behavior modification is also useful. Did you notice that some people lining up in the cafeteria, once they get their ordered food almost automatically start pouring patis or soy or add a pinch of salt, even before tasting it. Now break that habit.

Probably, it would also be wise to make a family policy that there may be salt in the cooking but no more salt in the table. Admittedly, old habits are hard to change. It takes a concerted effort and a little sacrifice from each member of the family to eventually shake the salt habit but in the end, you can enjoy the taste of food without the harmful effects of salt. By then, you can say, all that sacrifice indeed, is worth its salt!