Showing posts with label heart attack. Show all posts
Showing posts with label heart attack. 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

Friday, November 30, 2012

After a Heart Attack - Beware of OTCs

A heart attack is a life changing event that often leaves the patient and family members reeling. This is a sobering health concern that, once it happens, life is never the same. Heart attack patients need to take special precautions for the future, including but not limited to diet, exercise, and of course, the use of common painkillers that could have potentially deadly effects.

Research suggests that the use of typical painkillers like ibuprofen and naproxen can pose a risk for patients after suffering their first heart attack. A study of 100,000 first-time heart attack patients, published in the American Heart Association's (AHA) journal, Circulation, found that patients using NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) were more likely to have a second heart attack, or worse, to die, within the half-decade following their initial heart attack. NBC News online cited this study and points out that the AHA advised that anyone who has suffered a heart attack should discuss any use of NSAIDs with their doctor before using them.

aspirin and heart attacks
OTC painkillers called NSAIDs
can be dangerous for people
who have suffered a heart

What OTC medications are considered NSAIDs? As mentioned above, ibuprofen and naproxen are considered NSAIDs. They are also sold by brand names like Advil, Motrin and Aleve. Aspirin is also an NSAID that is available over the counter. NSAIDs are also available by prescription. It is important to tell your primary doctor if you have suffered a heart attack in the past. However, because OTC medications are available at pharmacies, grocery stores and even convenience stores, it is important for heart attack sufferers to be aware of the serious risks involved with taking them.

What Is a Heart Attack?

Perhaps it helps to more fully understand the concern of using OTC pain killers by first examining exactly what a heart attack involves. The American Heart Association describes a heart attack as occurring “when the blood flow to a part of the heart is blocked (often by a blood clot).” The cause of heart attack is related to the coronary arteries becoming harder and thicker as they are congested with plaque, a buildup of cholesterol, fat, and other material. If bits of plaque break off and form a clot that blocks the blood flow, a person can have a heart attack.

Some common symptoms of a heart attack are shortness of breath, chest pain or discomfort, and pain or discomfort of one or both arms, the neck, jaw, back, or stomach. Heart attack victims may also break into a cold sweat or experience nausea or become lightheaded.

If you or someone you know begins to experience these heart attack symptoms, it is critical to get to a hospital as soon as possible. It is best to call 9-1-1 to get emergency help as soon as possible.

Heart Attack Treatments and Precautions

We often discuss aspirin and heart attacks together because an aspirin a day can be prescribed as a preventive measure for heart attack and stroke. People who think they are having a heart attack are told to chew an aspirin right away. It's important to note the difference between taking an NSAID as prevention and self-prescribing it for treatment of pain after a heart attack. Before taking any over the counter medication, it is important to check first with your doctor to avoid any side effects.

The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute reports that at-risk patients can take aspirin for heart attack prevention in order to thin the blood and avoid new blood clots. Aspirin is considered an anti-clotting medicine. These medications prevent platelets from clumping together to form new blood clots, lowering a patient’s risk of having a heart attack.

Some other effective treatments for heart attack patients include treatment to manage the chest pain, oxygen therapy, nitroglycerin, angioplasty, and medicines to eliminate clots in the bloodstream. Beta blockers, ACE inhibitors, and anticoagulants comprise some other medicines for heart attacks while bypass surgery is another possible treatment. Even patients suffering a mild heart attack should be seen by a doctor and evaluated for heart damage and ongoing risk factors.

The availability of over-the-counter painkillers like ibuprofen is a cause for concern, as OTC drugs are considered "safe" by most consumers. It’s a scary thought that heart attack survivors may unknowingly be putting themselves at greater risk of another heart attack or even death. If you are a heart attack survivor with a need for painkillers, be sure to consult your family physician as well as your cardiologist to help you make the best decisions for your health care.

Kathryn M. D’Imperio
Contributing Writer