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Salt isn’t always the culprit

Hypertension and high blood pressure are known as a “major risk factor” for heart disease, according to the American Journal of Cardiology (1998). Excellent blood pressure is a systolic/diastolic of 120/80 or less. One solution offered to people with high blood pressure is to restrict sodium. At the Medical University-Polyclinic in Bonn, Germany, researchers put 147 people between the ages of 19 and 78 with normal blood pressure on a salt-restricted diet (1,000 milligrams per day). The researchers then compared their blood pressure readings with their readings after a diet of more than 15,000 mg daily. Sodium restriction lowered blood pressure slightly in 17 percent of the people. However, blood pressure readings remained unaffected in 67 percent, and blood pressure went up in 16 percent, demonstrating that sodium restriction did not lower blood pressure in 83 percent. LDL cholesterol levels went up significantly. Sodium restriction was as likely to raise blood pressure as to lower it, and it might raise LDL cholesterol levels enough to increase the risk of heart disease. A study at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Cornell University Medical College showed that men with high blood pressure who ate the least salt (about 5,000 milligrams daily) were four times more likely to have a heart attack – the very health consequence that a low-salt diet is supposed to prevent – than those who ate more than twice as much salt. “A rise in blood pressure means you need to add minerals to your diet, not cut back on salt,” says Dr. David A. McCarron, visiting professor at the Department of Nutrition at UC Davis, recipient of the 2004 International Prize for Modern Nutrition and head of the Division of Nephrology, Hypertension and Clinical Pharmacology at Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland. “Tragically, the idea that salt is bad for your blood pressure is one of the most generally accepted notions out there. For too long we’ve ignored the fact that blood pressure regulation is more closely tied to calcium, potassium and magnesium than it ever was to sodium,” says Dr. McCarron. McCarron first demonstrated the effects of calcium, magnesium and potassium supplementation on blood pressure in the 1980s. His 1984 report was published in the journal Science. More than 40 controlled clinical trials have backed up these nutrients’ blood pressure lowering ability.Weight loss can also lower blood pressure dramatically. In one study, weight loss demonstrated a reduction of nearly 4 mm on the systolic measurement and nearly 3 mm on the diastolic for every 10 pounds lost. Therefore, a loss of 40 excess pounds could result in a drop of nearly 16 mm on the systolic measurement and nearly 12 mm on the diastolic. In addition to calcium, magnesium, potassium and weight loss, exercise has proven beneficial in lowering blood pressure. Before beginning any supplement or exercise regimen, however, be sure to consult a naturopath who can assist you with the proper forms of the nutrients (not all forms are the same) and an exercise specialist who can design the proper program for you. Health matters! The Glenwood Springs Post Independent will run a “Health Matters” column once a month. Have a question for R.J.? E-mail all questions to healthmatters382@hotmail.com.


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