Salt is synonymous with seasoning the blandest food, yet this relied-on flavoring can also deliver a negative punch to your body. When ingesting extra sodium, your kidneys signal the body to hold on to more water. As a result, this extra stored water raises your blood pressure and strains the kidneys, arteries, heart and brain.
More than one-fourth of the population suffers from hypertension (high blood pressure), a condition implicated in half of all strokes and heart attacks. The condition is treatable, however. Many people are able to achieve the optimal blood pressure goal of approximately 115/75 mm Hg with anti-hypertension medications and certain lifestyle changes, particularly regular aerobic exercise, a low-salt diet and weight loss.
If Americans could reduce their average daily salt intake by as little as half a teaspoon (three grams), an estimated 100,000 heart attacks could be avoided annually, a recent study revealed. In the study, published in the Feb. 18 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found that the benefits of salt reduction could be on par with those achieved by reductions in smoking.
The DASH diet is an important non-medical tool for lowering high blood pressure, a risk factor for coronary artery disease (CAD). Additionally, multiple studies have shown the diet has heart-healthy benefits that may or may not be the result of its effect on hypertension; in one study, it resulted in a 24 percent lower risk of death from CAD and 18 percent lower risk of stroke in women. Now an observational study published in the May 11 Archives of Internal Medicine found that women whose eating pattern was similar to the DASH diet reduced their risk of heart failure by 37 to 50 percent. Cleveland Clinic dietitian Melissa Ohlson, MS, RD, LD, explains how these benefits might occur. "The DASH diet has a phenomenal effect on blood pressure. Additional studies have shown the DASH diet can lower LDL. The diet is high in nutrients and low in calories, making it a sound choice for weight management and reducing diabetes risk. These conditions-blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity and diabetes-are risk factors for coronary artery disease, so its no surprise that the DASH diet reduces the risk of heart failure, one of the most serious consequences of CAD," she explains.
The relationship between hypertension and other conditions known as "cardiovascular comorbidities" (CVCs)-conditions that affect the heart and/or blood vessels, such as coronary artery disease, heart failure, stroke, chronic kidney disease, peripheral arterial disease, and diabetes-is raising red flags in the medical community. According to a study in the Dec. 10/24, 2007 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, nearly 75 percent of 1,671 study participants with one or more CVCs also had hypertension, and less than half achieved their blood pressure goals. "Its well established that high blood pressure is strongly associated with stroke, cardiovascular disease, and chronic renal disease, as well as a reduced overall survival rate," says Richard Krasuski, MD, a cardiologist at Cleveland Clinic.
We all know that you can lower your cholesterol by avoiding foods that are high in saturated fats and trans fats. But did you know that eating certain foods can lower your blood pressure? High blood pressure, or hypertension, makes your heart work harder, which can lead to heart failure. High blood pressure is also a serious risk factor for stroke, heart attack, and kidney failure.
At the end of this rainbow, plates of heart-healthy foods.