Providing correct and reliable medical advice is not always easy to do. Since it is unlikely that new data will be uncovered that will show smoking is not hazardous to your health, I feel very confident in telling people they should not smoke.
Providing correct and reliable medical advice is not always easy to do.
Since it is unlikely that new data will be uncovered that will show smoking is not hazardous to your health, I feel very confident in telling people they should not smoke. The benefits of exercise are also well established, so I continue to strongly recommend engaging in physical activity.
However, not as certain are what the deleterious effects are on a person’s health by consuming too much salt. Although the American Heart Association and other organizations recommend limiting salt intake, there is controversy concerning whether, at the present time, there is enough scientific evidence to back up these recommendations.
A recent study of 6,500 participants failed to prove that restricting salt intake had a significant impact on decreasing the death rate due to heart disease or stroke.
Prior studies have shown that a low-salt diet can help decrease the presence of high blood pressure, but how much the blood pressure is decreased is controversial. Significant amount of weight loss has a more profound effect on lowering blood pressure than does the amount of salt intake.
Although the study showed an association between increased salt intake and high blood pressure, there was not enough evidence to state that high salt consumption was also associated with heart disease and stroke.
Many factors need to be considered when determining the cause of hypertension, including genetic factors. Also, it is known that certain people are “salt sensitive” and, therefore, are more prone to high blood pressure after ingesting salt. Salt may also have a greater impact on people who are obese or have a metabolic syndrome.
Despite of the presence of conflicting factors, certain general guidelines can be recommended regarding salt intake:
- If you have a family history of hypertension or heart disease, limit your salt intake. The same is true if you are overweight.
- Remember that foods already contain a significant amount of salt, so read the labels concerning the salt content.
- Even if you don’t have high blood pressure now, there is a great chance you will in the future because it is estimated that 9 out of 10 Americans will develop it in their lifetime.
So, although more data are needed to prove a strong association between high salt intake and cardiovascular- and stroke-related deaths, is it worth it to take a chance on your life by consuming too much salt? I don’t think so.
Dr. Murray Feingold is the physician in chief of The Feingold Center for Children, medical editor of WBZ-TV and WBZ radio, and president of the Genesis Fund in Massachusetts. The Genesis Fund is a nonprofit organization that funds the care of children born with birth defects, mental retardation and genetic diseases.