Low sodium helps prevent strokes, heart attacks

Could slashing salt threaten your heart? If a string of health headlines yelling “Too little salt could be bad for you” has made you think that, listen up. New claims questioning the link between sodium, blood pressure and long life aren’t telling you the whole story. We will!

Yes, your body needs some sodium. It regulates blood pressure and keeps your muscles and nerves humming. But like Christmas carols crooned by chipmunks, more isn’t better. A very small percent of people with high blood pressure are extremely salt-sensitive. If you’re among them, sodium launches your blood pressure skyward.

Halving your intake cuts your heart-attack risk by 30 percent or more.

One third of other adults have hypertension; you need to watch salt, though not as intensely. But for everyone else, we YOU Docs strongly believe many other nutrients are far more important. That doesn’t mean we think it’s fine to eat “salt bombs” (check the box to the right), but you don’t need to count every milligram either.
As for those “salt’s fine” studies, here’s the deal. Three biggies have come out since summer:

  • One reviewed seven studies and found that reducing sodium didn’t reduce fatal heart attacks.
  • Another looked at 167 studies and concluded that low-salt eating did nudge pressure lower but seemed to increase risky blood fats.
  • The third analyzed two big studies of 29,000 people with heart disease or at high risk for it. High and low sodium seemed to increase fatal heart attacks.

Sounds convincing, right? And meets our three-study criteria for trustworthy research. But hold on.

For starters, these studies aren’t the gold standard: randomized, controlled research that proves cause-and-effect.

Instead, all analyzed other studies that had some sodium data. That’s a major weakness.

Strike 1: The sodium info was sketchy. In some studies, volunteers described intake — not that reliable (do you remember what you ate last Thursday for breakfast?). Others used one urine check to decide whether people had low-, medium- or high-sodium diets (also iffy).

Strike 2: Many people had heart problems, so some low-sodium eaters likely were sick folks trying to get better.

Strike 3: The studies didn’t last long enough to see if changing sodium made long-term differences in strokes and heart attacks.

So what should YOU do? Focus on all-around heart-smart eating. Low sodium’s only part of that.

The YOU Docs — Mehmet Oz, host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen of Cleveland Clinic — are the authors of “YOU: Losing Weight.” For more information go to www.RealAge.com.

Top 10 salt bombs

Sidestep these biggest sources of hidden salt:

  • Pizza (meat-topped or plain)
  • White bread
  • Processed cheese
  • Hot dogs
  • Spaghetti with pre-made sauce
  • Ham
  • Ketchup
  • Salty snacks (corn chips, etc.)
  • Noodle soups
  • Mac ’n’ cheese

FeaturesHealthHealth & FitnessYouDocs

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Former Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs spoke to San Francisco’s new Guaranteed Income Advisory Group on April 16. (Courtesy SFGOV)
City launches task force to explore Universal Basic Income programs

San Francisco on Friday launched a guaranteed income task force that could… Continue reading

Muni’s K-Ingleside line will return six months earlier than previously announced. <ins>(Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)</ins>
K-Ingleside train to return on May 15

Announcement comes on the heels of pressure from Supervisor Myrna Melgar

Demonstrators march from Mission High School towards the San Francisco Police station on Valencia Street. (Jordi Molina/ Special to the S.F. Examiner)
Vigil, march honors those killed by police

Deaths of Daunte Wright, Roger Allen and others prompt renewed calls for defunding

A Recology employee stands at the comapany’s recycling facility on Pier 96 in 2016. (Jessica Christian/2016 S.F. Examiner)
Nuru scandal: Feds charge second former Recology executive with bribery

A second former Recology executive is facing charges for allegedly bribing ex-Public… Continue reading

Skier Andy Padlo crosses a frozen Spicer Reservoir. (Courtesy photo)
Stormy weather tests skiers’ mettle on Dardanelle traverse

Overcoming challenges makes outings more rewarding

Most Read