health

  1. The sweet spot for salt

    Sodium has been a necessary part of the diet since time began -- but based on how little the mainstream knows about it, you'd think it was discovered just last week.

    Governments, health organizations and doctors are all pushing the completely unproven notion that a low-salt diet will prevent heart disease and improve health in people who already have the condition -- but the latest research shows they're wrong.

    Dead wrong.

    While it's true that too much salt can hurt you, odds are you're not getting even close to "too much." Too little salt, on the other hand, is every bit as dangerous -- and if you follow mainstream guidelines, you're already smack in the danger zone.

    A new look at data on some 28,000 patients with either heart disease or a high risk of developing heart disease or diabetes found that people who consumed 4,000 mg per day actually had the lowest risk of heart disease.

    Since most Americans get about 3,400 mg a day, that's actually well above the average intake -- and way above the guidelines, which call for a maximum of 2,300 mg of sodium a day for most people, and 1,500 mg a day for many others.

    Stick to the lower intake, and you might want to make sure your affairs are in order: Those who only got between 2,000 mg and 3,000 mg a day actually had an 8.6-percent increase in the risk of dying from a heart-related condition, and a 5-percent boost in the risk of hospitalization for congestive heart failure than those who took in 4,000 mg a day.

    Of course, that doesn't mean you should ignore your salt intake -- because the same study in the American Journal of Hypertension found that extremely high levels of salt are even worse.

    How extreme? People who got between 7,000 mg and 8,000 mg of sodium a day had a 9.7-percent boost in the risk of dying of a heart-related event, and a 7-percent increase in the risk of a heart attack.

    But here's the thing: It's almost impossible to get that much sodium from a diet of fresh foods, even if you add a dash of salt to everything.

    Only packaged foods -- and lots of 'em -- can take you to that level. And in that case, is it really the salt -- or is it all the other junk used to make those meals?

    My money's on the latter.

    Salt isn't the only place the mainstream has gotten it backwards. Keep reading for the latest news on blood pressure.

  2. Happy people live longer

    It's the attitude adjustment that could save your life: A new study finds that happy people live longer -- which means a smile might turn out to be the cheapest, safest, and easiest longevity-booster on the planet.

    Can you think of any drug or supplement that can slash your risk of a premature death by 35 percent? I can't -- but the study of 3,800 people between the ages of 52 and 79 found that happiness did just that, even after adjusting for age, gender, depression and other health and lifestyle risks.

    All told, just 3.6 percent of the happiest people died during the five-year study -- versus 4.6 percent of those who had average levels of happiness and 7.3 percent of those who were unhappy.

    The volunteers also answered questions about fear, anxiety and worry -- but none of those other attitudes seemed to have any effect on who lived and who died.

    Just happiness -- although it could also be that the very things that make us happy also help us to live longer.

    Married people, for example, live longer... and people who've been married a long time tend to be happier than those who are alone (even if we might joke otherwise).

    Happier people also have a tighter circle of friends -- something that's also known to boost both longevity and happiness.

    On the other hand, attitude alone really can have a direct and measurable impact on health, like a study a couple of years back that found happy people have a 22 percent lower risk of heart disease.

    Another study I told you about over the summer found that an attitude closely linked to happiness -- optimism -- slashed the risk of a stroke.

    And last year, researchers found that the most disagreeable people were more likely to have thicker carotid arteries -- which would explain that increase in stroke risk, not to mention the thick bulging neck veins seen on angry cartoon characters.

    I know changing your attitude is easier said than done -- especially if you have years of experience in the grouch department. But while it's difficult, it's not impossible -- and if you can pull it off, it might just save your life.

  3. Why you should never trust 'doctor's orders'

    In reality, most doctors follow the guidelines issued by the major medical associations -- and that means some of the biggest decisions he makes about you and your health are based on badly biased information.
  4. The dirt on colon cleansing

    Never take medical advice from Hollywood stars...One of the more recent trends in Hollywood's boutique medicine industry involves colon cleansings -- the idea that a very elaborate (and often expensive) chemically enhanced enema can somehow cure all sorts of health issues.
  5. Always look on the bright side of life

    Your outlook could play a direct role in your stroke risk, with the most negative people facing the most negative outcomes.
  6. Diabetics can go nuts

    Well whaddaya know -- it turns out small changes in your diet can lead to small changes in your health. Researchers asked diabetics to replace a little of their daily carbs with either more carbs or nuts... and found that those who went nuts had slight improvements in blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

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