How to Lower Your Sodium Intake

Reduction of salt consumption by just 15 percent could save the lives of millions. If we cut our salt intake by half a teaspoon a day, which is achievable simply by avoiding salty foods and not adding salt to our food, we might prevent 22 percent of stroke deaths and 16 percent of fatal heart attacks—potentially helping more than if we were able to successfully treat people with blood pressure pills. As I discuss in my video Salt of the Earth: Sodium and Plant-Based Diets, an intervention in our kitchens may be more powerful than interventions in our pharmacies. One little dietary tweak could help more than billions of dollars worth of drugs.

What would that mean in the United States? Tens of thousands of lives saved every year. On a public-health scale, this simple step “could be as beneficial as interventions aimed at smoking cessation, weight reduction, and the use of drug therapy for people with hypertension or hypercholesterolemia,” that is, giving people medications to lower blood pressure and cholesterol. And, that’s not even getting people down to the target.

A study I profile in my video shows 3.8 grams per day as the recommended upper limit of salt intake for African-Americans, those with hypertension, and adults over 40. For all other adults the maximum is 5.8 daily grams, an upper limit that is exceeded by most Americans over the age of 3. Processed foods have so much added salt that even if we avoid the saltiest foods and don’t add our own salt, salt levels would go down yet still exceed the recommended upper limit. Even that change, however, might save up to nearly a hundred thousand American lives every year.

“Given that approximately 75% of dietary salt comes from processed foods, the individual approach is probably impractical.” So what is our best course of action? We need to get food companies to stop killing so many people. The good news is “several U.S. manufacturers are reducing the salt content of certain foods,” but the bad news is that “other manufacturers are increasing the salt levels in their products. For example, the addition of salt to poultry, meats, and fish appears to be occurring on a massive scale.”

The number-one source of sodium for kids and teens is pizza and, for adults over 51, bread. Between the ages of 20 and 50, however, the greatest contribution of sodium to the diet is not canned soups, pretzels, or potato chips, but chicken, due to all the salt and other additives that are injected into the meat.

This is one of the reasons that, in general, animal foods contain higher amounts of sodium than plant foods. Given the sources of sodium, complying with recommendations for salt reduction would in part “require large deviations from current eating behaviors.” More specifically, we’re talking about a sharp increase in vegetables, fruits, beans, and whole grains, and lower intakes of meats and refined grain products. Indeed, “[a]s might be expected, reducing the allowed amount of sodium led to a precipitous drop” in meat consumption for men and women of all ages. It’s no wonder why there’s so much industry pressure to confuse people about sodium.

The U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend getting under 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day, while the American Heart Association recommends no more than 1,500 mg/day. How do vegetarians do compared with nonvegetarians? Well, nonvegetarians get nearly 3,500 mg/day, the equivalent of about a teaspoon and a half of table salt. Vegetarians did better, but, at around 3,000 mg/day, came in at double the American Heart Association limit.

In Europe, it looks like vegetarians do even better, slipping under the U.S. Dietary Guidelines’ 2,300 mg cut-off, but it appears the only dietary group that nails the American Heart Association recommendation are vegans—that is, those eating the most plant-based of diets.

Written By Michael Greger M.D. FACLM

Source: https://nutritionfacts.org/2019/11/19/how-to-lower-your-sodium-intake/

Omega-3 Breakfast Pudding

Ingredients

Quantity Unit Name
2 cups unsweetened soy or almond milk
1 ripe banana
¼ cup rolled oats
¼ cup chia seeds
cup fresh fruit, chopped
1 teaspoon alcohol-free vanilla
pinch of salt
Optional Add-ins: chopped nuts, unsweetened shredded coconut, and cinnamon

Instructions

  1. Blend banana with milk using a blender, hand-mixer, or fork.
  2. Stir in the remaining ingredients.
  3. Ladle into jars, cover, and place in refrigerator overnight. It will be ready to grab and go in the morning!

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Serving Size: 6 servings

– Jonathan Ewald –

Source: https://lifeandhealth.org/undo-my-disease/diabetes/on-the-go-breakfast-pudding/094629.html

The 4 Best Ways To Avoid Heart Disease

Risks are everywhere. Every time you drive, you’re risking a car accident. Each time you have a conversation with someone, you risk a misunderstanding. In nearly everything we do, we taking a risk. Risks are unavoidable – they’re just a part of life – so the question boils down to what you do with those risks.

Let’s talk about health risks (we are Life & Health, after all). It might be easy to brush risks in this arena aside, given that everything seems to be a health risk. But really, more than anything else, is your health something you should be risking? Risk-taking health can lead to costly, lifelong issues, most commonly with your heart. That’s why we’re here to help guide you to lessen your risk for coronary heart disease (CHD).

You might be relieved to hear that the risk factors related to coronary heart disease are preventable.

The four major risk factors are:

Diabetes

Smoking

High blood pressure

High cholesterol

It’s been shown that, if you have any of the above risk factors, the possibility of having CHD is extremely high. In fact, around 80-90% of CHD patients have one of the four above health problems. Out of patients who have had a fatal outcome from CHD, 95% of those patients had one of those four major risk factors.

Risk #1: Diabetes

Exactly how much does CHD risk go up when we have diabetes? A study of cardiovascular risk of patients with diabetes showed that diabetes can increase the risk of both CHD and ischemic stroke, a blood vessel blockage in the brain, by two to four times.

Risk #2: Smoking

The most preventable major risk factor for CHD is smoking. Just by not smoking, you can lower the risk of CHD, as well as lessen the risk of other diseases, especially lung diseases like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and cancer. Never smoking in the first place is a great way to avoid one of the “big four” risk factors of heart disease. If you already smoke, don’t sweat it. It’s never too late to quit and the benefits are literally immediate.

Risk #3: High blood pressure

High blood pressure, or what clinicians call hypertension, is usually a diet-caused disease. High sodium in the diet, lack of exercise, and stress, all combine and result in high blood pressure. High blood pressure is the most common risk factor in the U.S. for death among females and comes in as the second leading risk factor for death in males. In short, the risks associated with high blood pressure are far too high to ignore. Blood pressure is very manageable by maintaining a diet low in sodium, refined sugars, and fats. Also, regular exercise will keep the heart in good shape and lower the risk of high blood pressure.

Risk #4: High cholesterol

When we screen for cholesterol, too often we get numbers above where the levels should be. There are many ways we can address high cholesterol, with diet playing a significant role. When we shop for groceries, we can lower our cholesterol levels by cutting out meats, dairy, and processed foods that contain unhealthy fats. Instead of those high-fat foods, choose heart-healthy foods such as fresh fruit, seeds, and tree nuts. These contain vitamins, essential minerals and the healthy fats that our hearts and various cells need.

The American Journal of Cardiology estimated that if just 5% of diabetes was prevented by lifestyle and diet changes, close to 30,000 incidents of heart failure could be avoided yearly. These smaller steps to lower risk can pay off when it matters. So what’s the consensus? Take less risks with your life and health so you can enjoy taking risks in other ways, like going on adventures, traveling to unknown places, and forming new relationships.

JUSTIN LEAL

JUSTIN LEAL IS A BIOLOGY GRADUATE OF CALIFORNIA STATE UNIVERSITY, BAKERSFIELD. CURRENTLY, HE IS PURSUING A MASTER’S IN PUBLIC HEALTH AT LOMA LINDA UNIVERSITY IN HEALTH EDUCATION. 

Source: https://lifeandhealth.org/lifestyle/how-to-reduce-your-4-risks-for-heart-disease/1612257.html

The Reversal on Fish Oil

Are the purported benefits of fish oil supplementation for the prevention and treatment of heart disease just a “fish tale“? Thanks torecommendations from organizations such as the American Heart Association that individuals at high risk for heart disease ask their physicians about fish oil supplementation, fish oil has grown into a multibillion dollar industry. We now consume over 100,000 tons of fish oil every year.

But what does the science say? A systematic review and meta-analysis published in the Journal of the American Medical Association,highlighted in my video Is Fish Oil Just Snake Oil? looked at all the best “randomized clinical trials evaluating the effects of omega-3’s on lifespan, cardiac death, sudden death, heart attack, and stroke.” The studies told the subjects to either eat more oily fish or to take fish oil capsules. What did the study find? Overall, the researchers found no protective benefit for all-cause mortality, heart disease mortality, sudden cardiac death, heart attack, or stroke.

What about for those who already had a heart attack and are trying to prevent another? Still no benefit. Where did we even get this idea that omega 3’s were good for the heart? If we look at some of the older studies, the results seemed promising. For example, there was the famous DART trial back in the 80s involving 2,000 men. Those advised to eat fatty fish had a 29% reduction in mortality. Pretty impressive—no wonder it got a lot of attention. But people seemed to have forgotten the sequel, the DART-2 trial. The same group of researchers, and an even bigger study (3,000 men). In DART-2 “those advised to eat oily fish and particularly those supplied with fish oil capsules had a higher risk of cardiac death.”

Put all the studies together, and there’s no justification for the use of omega 3s as a structured intervention in everyday clinical practice or for guidelines supporting more dietary omega-3’s. So what should doctors say when their patients follow the American Heart Association advice to ask them about fish oil supplements? Given this and other negative meta-analyses, “our job as doctors should be to stop highly marketed fish oil supplementation in all of our patients.”

I’ve previously discussed fish oil supplements in the context of risks versus purported cardiovascular benefits:

But if the benefits aren’t there, then all one is left with are concerns over the industrial pollutants that concentrate in the fish fat (even in distilled fish oil, see Is Distilled Fish Oil Toxin-Free?).

These same contaminants are found in the fish themselves. This raises concern for adults (Fish Fog), children (Nerves of Mercury), and pregnant moms:

Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live year-in-review presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death, More Than an Apple a Day ,and From Table to Able.

Image Credit: Jo Christian Oterhals / Flickr