Showing posts with label Stroke. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Stroke. Show all posts

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Health Benefits of Salt? Actually, Yes!

It may seem almost like sacrilege to suggest that salt could have health benefits. After all, in many articles and studies, sodium (a significant component of salt) has been named as the culprit in such crimes to our health as high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, stomach cancer, and osteoporosis. But not all the research agrees on the health risks of salt:
  • A 2011 meta-analysis found no strong connection between reducing salt to reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke, not only among those with normal blood pressure, but also those with high blood pressure.
  • A 2014 meta-analysis determined that both low sodium intakes and high sodium intakes are associated with increased mortality.
  • A 2013 study found that those on a low-sodium diet were more likely to experience heart failure than those on a high-sodium diet.
  • A report from the Institute of Medicine found no evidence that a low sodium diet (below 2.300 grams) reduced the likelihood of cardiovascular disease.
  • A 2014 study involving data from over 100,000 individuals found that those who consume below 3 grams of sodium daily had nearly a third higher risk of death, heart attack, or stroke compared to those who consumed between 3 and 6 grams.
In spite of most people believing that salt is bad for you, its primary element – sodium – is a mineral. Like many other minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and magnesium, salt can be beneficial for most of us. In the right amount, it's even fundamental to good health.

Often, the problem with salt consumption is not what salt is, but rather how much salt we consume, or, as some believe, what kind of salt we consume.

How much is too much salt?

Your maximum salt intake will depend on a number of variables, including your overall diet, health, family history, ethnicity, and the amount and type of exercise you get. 

For example, according to this medical report, potassium intake matters a great deal, as potassium can counteract the blood pressure risks of a high salt intake. A high potassium intake relaxes blood vessels, which helps your body excrete sodium and decrease blood pressure.

The problem is that the average American eats about 6 to 10 grams of salt daily, even as the recommendation (from such sources as World Health Organization, the American Heart Association, and many U.S. government agencies) for healthy adults is less than 2.3 mg of sodium per day.

Even as there may be disagreement in the medical research regarding whether or not low sodium diets are better for the average person, there is general agreement that a daily sodium consumption above 6-7 grams increases certain health risks.

Types of salt

Dietary salt, or table salt, is used in food to preserve and flavor it. Its primary component is sodium chloride – about 40 percent.

The most common forms of salt you can buy at your local supermarket include:
  • Regular table salt – Ordinary table salt, which is generally the most affordable kind of salt, is processed under heat and bleaching to remove all elements but its sodium chloride content and to make it white. The processing usually involves giving salt additives, such as iodine.
  • Sea salt – Sea salt is effectively evaporated seawater, minimally or not processed, and therefore will contain trace mineral levels (notably calcium, magnesium, and potassium) not present in regular table salt. Some sea salts have less sodium by volume because of their larger crystal size.
  • Himalayan pink salt – Pink in color, Himalayan pink salt is a rock salt, often preferred by health advocates because it is not as processed as table salt and, therefore, contains many other healthy substances, such as trace minerals. In a chemical analysis, Himalayan salt is shown to have more than 80 trace minerals and other elements.
Many health experts recommend that you get your salt from natural sources, in order to avoid additives and to benefit from salt’s other compounds that are often lost or removed in processing.

Sodium/Salt Health Risks

As with any dietary change, you are advised to speak with your physician or another qualified health provider who can answer questions and give advice based on the specifics of your medical condition.

Generally, consuming salt in moderation is safe. Those who should consume even less than the standard recommended amount include:
  • Individuals over 50 years of age
  • Those with high blood pressure
  • Individuals with diabetes or chronic kidney disease
  • African Americans
Those in these high risk groups are generally advised to consume less than 1,500 mg (1.5 grams) of sodium per day.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Do You Know Your Risk for Stroke?

Stroke is a leading cause of death and the leading cause of disability in adults in the United States. According to experts, the risk factors for a stroke fall into three categories:

  1. Risks that can’t be changed. These are typically hereditary factors - things you were born with.
  2. Risks that can be changed, treated or managed. These tend to be lifestyle choices, such as your diet and exercise habits.
  3. Other, miscellaneous factors. These are things that you have some, but not complete control of.

Stroke risk factors that you can’t change:

  • Age: After 55, your chances of stroke doubles each decade. However, stroke does affect younger individuals too.
  • Family history: Has a relative – parent, grandparent, sister or brother – had a stroke? This might increase your risk as well.
  • Race: African-Americans have a much greater risk of stroke than Caucasians do, in part, to a higher risk of high blood pressure, diabetes or obesity.
  • Gender: Women have a greater risk of stroke than men. Stroke causes death in more women than men. Experts attribute this higher incident in women to the use of birth control pills; pregnancy; diabetes during pregnancy (gestational diabetes); pre-eclampsia/eclampsia (a dangerous medical condition during pregnancy that causes high blood pressure); smoking; and hormone replacement therapy to manage menopausal symptoms.
  • Prior history: There is a much greater risk of stroke for someone who already suffered one. There is also great risk of stroke for an individual who has experienced a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or a heart attack.

Factors that can be changed, treated or managed:

  • High blood pressure: High blood pressure is the leading cause of strokes.
  • Smoking: Nicotine and carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke damage the cardiovascular system.
  • Diabetes: Diabetes is a treatable disease. However, many people with diabetes are also overweight and have high blood pressure and/or high cholesterol, conditions that put them at greater risk for stroke.
  • Carotid, peripheral or other artery diseases: These conditions cause your arteries to become narrow or blocked due to fatty deposits, which increases your stroke risk.
  • Atrial fibrillation or other heart disease: Any type of heart disease puts you at greater risk for stroke.
  • Sickle cell disease/anemia: This genetic disorder typically affects African-American and Hispanic children. With this disease, your cells have difficulty carrying oxygen to your tissues and organs.  Cells also stick to and block your artery walls. This increases your chance of stroke.
  • High cholesterol: Having high “bad” cholesterol is a risk factor for stroke. In addition, too low levels of “good” cholesterol may be dangerous, too.
  • Poor diet: Having a high intake of fats, cholesterol, salt and calories is dangerous.
  • Obesity or physical inactivity: Being inactive, overweight or obese are all unhealthy and increase your risk of stroke. Find ways to incorporate activity into your daily life.

Other factors:

  • Where you live: Strokes are more common in the Southeastern United States.
  • Your income: Stroke risk is more common in individuals with lower incomes.
  • Alcohol abuse: Medical professionals advise no more than two drinks per day for men; no more than one drink daily for women. Pregnant women should never consume alcohol.
  • Drug abuse: Heavy use of drugs and drug addiction is associated with stroke and other health problems, especially in younger people.

Where can you learn more?

Check out sites such as,, or for more information regarding strokes as well as ways to reduce your risk factors.

The best way to reduce your risk is to immediately start managing any stroke risk factors you may have. Keep in mind that while there are some things you can't change, you still have control, and a balanced diet, exercise and an overall healthy lifestyle are always beneficial.

Live Healthy. Live Smart.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

F.A.S.T. The Key to Quick Stroke Responsiveness

Every year strokes affect over one million Americans, often resulting in either death or disability. Do you know the warning signs and symptoms of a stroke? The key to effectively treating a stroke is acting F.A.S.T.

What does F.A.S.T. stand for?

According to the American Stroke Association, F.A.S.T. stands for:

1. Facial drooping. One side of a person’s face may droop during a stroke.

Test: Ask the person to smile. Is his/her face sagging?  Call 9-1-1.

2. Arm weakness.  An individual having a stroke may experience weakness and/or numbness in one or both arms.

Test: Ask the individual to raise both arms. Do you notice a difference in how he/she is raising the arms? Call 9-1-1.

3. Speech difficulties. Slurred speech or difficulty speaking may be signs of a stroke.

Test: Have the person repeat a simple sentence. If he/she can’t, or is having difficulty, call 9-1-1.

4. Time. It’s important to get help as soon as you recognize any signs or symptoms of a stroke. Also, record the time symptoms first appeared so you can tell medical personnel.

Why is time so important in responding to a stroke?

Like all organs, your brain relies on blood flow and oxygen to survive and work well. A stroke blocks the blood flow to the brain. The longer the brain is without blood flow and oxygen, the more likely an individual may suffer disability or death as a result of a stroke.

Important facts about strokes:

Stoke is a leading cause of death in adults in the U.S.
Stroke is the leading cause of disability in adults in the U.S.
Females are more likely to die from a stroke than males.
While a stroke is more common in older adults, it can affect younger people, too.

Types of strokes:

1. Ischemic Stroke: Caused by a clot that blocks blood flow to the brain.
2. Hemorrhagic Stroke: Caused by a blood vessel rupturing, which prevents blood flow to the brain.
3. Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA): Also called a “mini-stroke,” a TIA is caused by a miniature clot that blocks blood flow to the brain.

How do you know if you’re at risk for a stroke?

According to experts, a stroke may occur as a result of:

Hereditary factors (risks you get from family members)
The natural aging process
An individual’s lifestyle

In many cases, a stroke is the result of a combination of all three.

Where can you learn more?

Visit sites such as the American Stroke Association or the National Stroke Association for valuable information on strokes.

Remember F.A.S.T. when it comes to stroke responsiveness, and take the time to teach the acronym to your family and friends. Acting F.A.S.T. can mean the difference between life and death.

Live Healthy. Live Smart