Heart Beat October 2014 Issue

Heart Beat: October 2014

Do you know how much sodium you consume? Most americans don't.
Despite efforts by the medical community to heighten awareness of the dangers of too much sodium in the diet, most Americans have no idea how much sodium they really eat. The results of an American Heart Association (AHA) survey found that 97 percent of the people questioned could not estimate or underestimated how much sodium they consume daily. Most of those surveyed were off by about 1,000 milligrams. That's a serious concern, since the AHA recommends no more than 1,500 mg of sodium per day for optimal heart health. The majority of Americans eat about 3,000 mg of sodium per day. Too much sodium can increase blood pressure by causing the body to retain fluids and increase the volume of blood being pumped every day. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for stroke and other cardiovascular problems. It's a challenge to reduce salt in the diet, since about 75 percent of the sodium Americans consume comes from processed and prepackaged foods and restaurant foods. Experts recommend opting for no- or low-sodium items and flavoring them at home with seasonings other than salt. Paying attention to food labels and asking for the sodium content of restaurant food is a good way to become more mindful of your sodium intake.

Eating probiotics may help improve blood pressure
Probiotics, a bacteria found in yogurt and in supplements, may help lower blood pressure, according to a review of nine studies. The research, published in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension, suggests that consumption of probiotics may improve total cholesterol, lower LDL cholesterol and blood glucose levels, and reduce insulin resistance. Researchers also believe the bacteria may help regulate the hormone system that regulates blood pressure and fluid balance. The analysis noted that studies examining probiotics' relationship to blood pressure tend to be small. Researchers say that more and larger studies are needed before doctors can confidently recommend probiotics for blood pressure control and prevention. Probiotics are often recommended for digestive health.

Study raises questions about risks associated with too much exercise
Your doctor tells you to get more exercise. You read that advice in the pages of Heart Advisor every month, because research clearly shows that regular exercise can have positive benefits on your heart, lungs, brain, muscles, mood, energy level, weight, sleep and much more. But when it comes to exercise, there may be limits to those benefits. A recent study suggests that, among heart attack survivors, running more than 30 miles a week or walking more than 46 miles a week could present more cardiovascular risks than benefits. At those benchmarks, benefits seem to disappear. While it's true that elite athletes in most sports tend to live longer than the general population, the burden of extreme exercising may be too much for individuals already diagnosed with heart disease. Current guidelines suggest 30 to 40 minutes of exercise daily, or at least 150 minutes a week. Researchers agree that those numbers are good targets. They also remind heart patients to discuss their exercise plans and routines with their doctors to make sure they're getting enough activity, but aren't putting themselves at greater risk.

Loss of sensation in the feet to diabetes may signal heart trouble
Neuropathy, or damage to the peripheral nervous system, is a serious complication associated with diabetes. Diabetic or peripheral neuropathy tends to mean a tingling or numb sensation in the feet. Damage to blood vessels servicing the feet can also occur in patients with diabetes. And now research suggests that a loss of feeling in the feet is associated with a greater risk of cardiovascular events, such as heart attacks and strokes. A British study found that individuals with peripheral neuropathy were significantly more likely to develop cardiovascular disease (CVD). Fortunately, peripheral neuropathy can be diagnosed rather easily. Improved blood glucose control, and better management of CVD risk factors, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking and obesity can help prevent or at least delay the onset of cardiovascular problems among people with type 2 diabetes.

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