low-salt diet

  1. Why you need to watch your sodium intake

    Yes, it's still important to watch your sodium intake

    It's the first piece of advice given to nearly everyone diagnosed with high blood pressure: cut back on your salt. If you're over a certain age, you've almost certainly heard that speech already (and probably more than once).

    Reducing sodium intake helps about 10 percent of people with high blood pressure. It works much better if you reduce your sodium intake while increasing your potassium intake (especially from fruits and vegetables).

    Now, lately, I've seen both mainstream and natural health doctors back away from that advice. I've seen them claim that maybe you don't need to worry so much about your salt intake.

    One new study making headlines, for example, claims the "right" amount of salt is somewhere 2,645 mg and 4,945 mg of salt a day -- which is where most people fall these days anyway (even though it's well above the established guidelines).

    This study from the Cochrane Collaboration says falling below that level -- getting the lower levels recommend by guidelines -- can actually increase your risk of health problems.

    But here's the flaw: Most people switch to a low-salt diet only after it's too late -- only when they've suffered a heart attack or heart failure and are under strict doctor's orders to make changes.

    In other words, people on a low-salt diet are often unhealthy from the get-go, so of course they have a higher risk of health problems. If they had made the switch sooner (and other healthy lifestyle changes), they almost certainly could have avoided those problems.

    Other studies show that salt really does have a major effect on your health. A recent eight-year British study found that reduced salt intake is likely to have contributed to a significant reduction in blood pressure as well as ischemic heart disease (IHD) and stroke mortality.

    So my advice is to stick to the tried-and-true, because decades of research shows that limiting your sodium intake will improve your health, especially your heart health.

    Choose "low salt" foods in the supermarket and carefully read package labels. Better yet, reduce your intake of processed foods since most of them are loaded with salt (and of course are unhealthy in so many other ways).

    Instead, eat freshly prepared foods made from scratch and add a little salt to taste.

    You'll use less salt, and your food will taste better, too.

  2. 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.

  3. Low salt comes with high risk

    Next time your doctor says "cut back on the salt, or else" ask him one question. Or else what?
  4. Low sodium, high risk

    A new study is shaking up the conventional wisdom on salt, as researchers have found that people who consume "too much" of it actually have the lowest risk of death by heart attack.

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