Hunters need to be heart smart

Eating too many salty foods can create all sorts of health problems, including high blood pressure.

But did you know a lot of common foods are packed with excess sodium? It’s not just the French fries and potato chips you need to be careful with.

As the firearm deer season begins, the American Heart Association encourages hunters to be heart smart. If last year’s hunting season was the last time you’ve exercised, you may be putting yourself at risk of a heart attack.

That’s why the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association is increasing awareness of sodium and the “Salty Six” – common foods that may be loaded with excess sodium that can increase your risk for heart disease and stroke.

The American Heart Association is making it easy to find better options when filling the grocery shopping for deer camp.

Simply look for the Heart-Check mark. When you see it, you’ll know right away that the food or meal has been certified to meet our nutritional standards, including sodium.

Sodium overload is a major health problem in the United States. In a recent survey conducted by the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association, American consumers understand a small amount of sodium should be consumed daily, but the exact amount is not understood.

The average American consumes about 3,400 milligrams of sodium a day – more than twice the 1,500 milligrams recommended by the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association.

That’s in large part because of our food supply; more than 75 percent of our sodium consumption comes from processed and restaurant foods.

Excess sodium in our diets has less to do with what we’re adding to our food and more to do with what’s already in the food.

The average individual is getting more than double the amount of sodium that they need, but there are ways to improve their sodium intake under their control.

Here’s a quick look at the Salty Six, the top sources for sodium in today’s diet:

– Breads and rolls. We all know breads and rolls add carbohydrates and calories, but salt, too? It can be deceiving because a lot of bread doesn’t even taste salty, but one piece can have as much as 230 milligrams of sodium. That’s about 15 percent of the recommended amount from only one slice, and it adds up quickly.

– Cold cuts and cured meats. Even foods that would otherwise be considered healthy may have high levels of sodium. Deli or pre-packaged turkey can contain as much as 1,050 milligrams of sodium. It’s added to most cooked meats so they don’t spoil after a few days.

– Pizza. OK, everybody knows pizza’s not exactly a health food, because of cholesterol, fat and calories. But pizza’s plenty salty, too. One slice can contain up to 760 milligrams of sodium, so two can send you over the daily recommendation.

– Poultry. Surely chicken can’t be bad for you, right? Well, it depends on how you prepare it. Reasonable portions of lean, skinless, grilled chicken are OK but may still contain an added sodium solution. And when you start serving up the chicken nuggets, the sodium also adds up. Just 3 ounces of frozen and breaded nuggets can add nearly 600 milligrams of sodium.

– Soup. This is another one of those foods that seems perfectly healthy. It can’t be bad if Mom gave it to you for the sniffles, right? But when you take a look at the nutrition label it’s easy to see how too much soup can quickly turn into a sodium overload. One cup of canned chicken noodle soup can have up to 940 milligrams of sodium.

– Sandwiches. This covers everything from grilled cheese to hamburgers. We already know that breads and cured meats may be heavy on the sodium. Add them together, then add a little ketchup or mustard and you can easily surpass 1,500 milligrams of sodium in one sitting.

Sodium doesn’t just affect your heart health, but your physical appearance as well. Excess sodium consumption may make your face feel puffy, give you bags under your eyes, increase swelling in your fingers and make your jeans look, and feel, tighter.

For hunters, an American Heart Association study compared the heart’s workload of an individual deer hunting to that of the same individual exercising on a treadmill and discovered that deer hunting places the heart under more strain.

Therefore, hunters need to be heart smart and follow some tips before heading out to the woods:

– Eat a light breakfast, avoid the high calorie, high fat foods.

– Hunt with a friend; don’t hunt alone.

– Bring a cell phone to reach emergency services if needed.

– Tell friends or family your location and scheduled return.

– Make sensible plans for moving that trophy buck – get help from friends and family members.

Because heavy lifting, hiking and the overall physical activity of hunting can put a strain on any hunter’s heart, the American Heart Association encourages hunters to know the warning signs of a heart attack:

– An uncomfortable pressure, fullness, squeezing.

– Pain in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back again.

– Pain that spreads to the shoulders, neck and arms and is often accompanied by lightheadedness, sweating, nausea and shortness of breath.

Stroke signs include:

– A sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg.

– Sudden dizziness and loss of coordination.

– Slurred speech.

– Severe headache.

Both heart attack and stroke are medical emergencies and 911 needs to be accessed immediately. Remember part of your hunter safety includes being heart smart.