Showing posts with label high blood pressure. Show all posts
Showing posts with label high blood pressure. 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

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Four Simple Ways to Keep Your Family Fit and Healthy This Summer

The warm weather and off-school schedules of summertime offer unique opportunities for families to get fit and healthy together. And it needn’t be hard! Here are some easy ways to achieve family fitness and health this summer.

According to the U.S. Surgeon General, most Americans do not exercise regularly, with the most sedentary offenders being the younger set – those between the ages of 12 and 21. In fact, the report shows that 14% of young people typically get no physical activity!

Scary stuff. But it can be fun and easy to get fit as a family: The Surgeon General’s Advisory Group recommends merely a moderate level of physical activity for just 30 minutes daily, or an intense activity for as little as 15-20 minutes, to stay fit. Doing either will benefit your family by:
  • Building and maintaining healthy bones, muscles, and joints;
  • Helping to control weight, build lean muscle, and reduce fat;
  • Preventing or delaying the development of high blood pressure, and helping to reduce blood pressure in some adolescents with hypertension.

Start easy!

If your family is sedentary today, you can “grease the skids” of physical activity by starting out with the simplest of activities, such as a walk around the neighborhood, checking out the nearest city park or school playground for some basketball free throws, or playing a round of disk golf. 

Four fun family fitness & health tips for summer

1. Hit the court!
Basketball courts in the U.S. are plentiful, and access is often free. Check your local city park, or see if any neighborhood public schools maintain summer access to the playground’s basketball court.
A round of full-on family basketball can be downright strenuous – great if your family’s up for that.  But even if you’re not fit enough for a high action game, there are many family-friendly basketball games, such as:
  • Around the World – This is a shooting game that progresses around the basketball hoop, with players taking turns in an arc pattern. Getting a basket from the first position lets you move to the next position, and so on, until a player reaches the final shot position.
  • Basketball “golf” – Paced like golf ( i.e., no sweat!), you win by getting the lowest score. You take turns shooting from the free-throw line.
  • H-O-R-S-E – Yet another take-turns basketball game, a player shoots from anywhere and in any style, with each subsequent player attempting to get a basket from the same spot in the same way.
See the rules for many family-friendly basketball games such as these, and many more.
2. Backyard badminton
Badminton is a sport that takes very little money to make a whole lot of fun. Because the equipment involved is very light compared to other sports, the game is much safer than other high-action games, and is easy for younger family members to learn. Find badminton rules here.

You can get an entire badminton set – complete with net, poles, ground stakes, four rackets, and two shuttlecocks for less than $30. It's fun for the whole family, for the cost of a pair of running shoes!
3. Take a hike!
Walking around the neighborhood can get a bit boring (unless you spice it up with fun games like I-spy). But take the family to a nearby trail and the view changes (from utility poles to trees), the terrain changes (from flat to varied), the sounds change (from traffic to chipmunks), and the smells change (from mowed grass to wildflowers).

Doing a trail hike is also more involving, with fewer distractions from the family time and fewer opportunities to shortcut back to the house.

To find trails in your area, check out Rails-to-Trails Conservancy,, or
4. Refresh without refined sugar
When you or your kids need a cool drink on a hot day, you don’t need to load up on unhealthy sugars or risky sugar substitutes. Avoid canned sodas or sugar-laden lemonades with one of these tasty, refreshing substitutes:
  • Watermelon Mint Iced Tea – a refreshing fruit-based beverage.
  • Real 100% fruit juice – Though fruit juice can have as many calories and carbohydrates as many soft drinks, it has much more nutritional value. Make it fresh squeezed fruit juice, and you’ll also benefit from a big dose of phytonutrients and antioxidants.

A couple reminders: why family fitness is important

Need some extra health/fitness motivation?  We’ve mentioned the benefits above, but here are the risks of not getting physical enough:
  • Without a concerted effort, many kids will vegetate in front of the TV or iPhone. But check out these stats on why sitting can be bad for you.
  • The CDC cautions that childhood obesity is growing at an alarming rate: doubling in children and tripling in adolescents in 30 years.
Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer