Salt Is Not Always A Negative Health Factor

July 12, 2011 by  
Filed under featured, Health

Salt, like butter, has become a bit of a ‘health demon’ in recent years – though not by me. Obviously drowning your food in salt is not a good idea health wise – or taste wise – but in moderation I don’t have a problem with it and now new research backs that up and indicates it can be just as dangerous to have a low intake.

Salt In Pregnancy:
The link between high salt intake and high blood pressure is well established, but a new study published in the American Journal of Physiology has found that consuming too little sodium is also damaging. According to researchers from both the University of Heidelberg in Germany and the University of Aarhus in Denmark, women who consume too much or too little sodium during pregnancy can end up with children with poorly-developed kidneys, which in turn can cause a lifetime of heart problems.

Building upon previous studies that identified a link between excessive sodium intake and low birth weights, high blood pressure, and kidney problems, the new study identifies similar developmental deficits from too little sodium intake. Mothers who had both too little, and too much, were affecting their babies development during between the crucial developmental period of 1 – 12 weeks. Principally, this concerned the kidneys and ability to carry out their vital function of filtering the blood and creating urine waste.

If you are concerned about diet in pregnancy then there is an excellent website which gives good information provided by the British Nutrition Foundation. It is a free online resource for parents and health professionals at

Salt In Adulthood:
If you have been virtuously ‘passing’ on the salt to reduce your risk of heart disease then the bad news is it won’t have made any difference. The good news is that a sensible amount won’t reduce your chance of dying early.

A systematic review of nearly six and a half thousand patients, published in the latest edition of The Cochrane Library, has shown that a moderate reduction in the amount of salt you eat doesn’t reduce your likelihood of dying or experiencing cardiovascular disease.

In the UK, the National Institute of Health and Clinical Guidance (NICE) has recently called for an acceleration of the reduction in salt in the general population from a maximum intake of 6g per day per adult by 2015 to 3g by 2025 and most food manufacturers are working to remove it from their products so your intake is being gradually reduced by external circumstances.

So which salt is best?
Moderation seems to be the key – as it is with most health food issues – and it’s really important to know that not all sodium is the same. The ones to avoid are processed table salt and chemical salt derivatives like monosodium glutamate because these are the true culprits that bring about heart disease.

The best option is to go for full-spectrum sea and mineral salts like Himalayan Pink Crystal Salt as these contain beneficial trace minerals and elements that are vital to health.

Increased Risk of Breast Cancer Recurrence With Common Drugs

High blood pressure is increasingly common with more and more people on lifelong medication to control it. However, we need to remember that the human body doesn’t exist in separate, unconnected parts and that if you take a drug directed at one particular organ or problem, it doesn’t mean that medication will only zero in on one symptom or function.

It can, and often will, impact other processes, cells and organs or even the immune system and a disturbing example of this is the connection that has just been made between widely prescribed drugs commonly used to control high blood pressure and heart failure in women and breast cancer.

According to a new study by researchers at UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, ACE inhibitors and beta blockers (the most frequently prescribed drugs for high blood pressure and heart problems) appear to be linked with an increased risk of recurrence in women who have had breast cancer. Dr. Patricia Ganz, author of the study, used data from the Life After Cancer Epidemiology (LACE) study, which included patients diagnosed with early stage breast cancer, as the basis for the research. Her findings have led her to conclude that a much larger clinical database study is needed as she was both concerned and surprised at the negative effect of the ACE inhibitors on chances for breast cancer recurrence.

For me this confirms the belief that medicine needs to be dealing with the whole picture and not just looking at isolated conditions or symptoms. Many women will certainly need to be taking medication for high blood pressure if they have not managed to control it by other more natural means like diet and exercise but drugs never act in isolation.

Many years ago I was involved with the writing of a book called The Medicine Chest which looked at the interaction between prescription drugs, food and supplements and it was quite startling to me to realise the impact that so many drugs have well outside their original sphere of influence.

No woman who has experienced breast cancer ever wants to repeat the experience and therefore this research is a timely reminder that by taking care of your own health and asking questions about every medication you are prescribed you will improve your own chances for well-being and longevity.

A good doctor will always answer your questions about what contra indications come with the drug and if they do not — and you cannot change your doctor — then I’ve always found pharmacists to be extremely helpful and the Internet is always a backup research tool.

If you have had breast cancer and are taking medication for either heart problems or high blood pressure then please discuss this with your doctor, particularly if you are under any degree of stress. A study carried out in September 2010 concluded that chronic stress works as a “fertilizer” to feed breast cancer progression through inflammatory signaling, significantly spiking the spread of disease.

We know that inflammation appears to play an important role in breast cancer and different classes of drugs may influence different pathways of inflammation is so as well as adopting a healthier lifestyle dealing with stress is also a high priority.

Low Testosterone Linked to Alzheimer’s and Early Death

October 26, 2010 by  
Filed under Health, Healthy Ageing, Mens Health

Hormone balance is not confined to women but somehow men don’t get the same level of attention. This may be because they do not pay as much attention to their own health, or visit the doctor as often, so this is aimed as much at the women in their life as it is at them. This is an alert to prompt men to get their testosterone levels checked because of the new links between that and Alzheimer’s and even premature death.

This new research on Alzheimer’s comes from a team that was led by Leung-Wing Chu, M.D., Chief of the Division of Geriatric Medicine at Queen Mary Hospital at the University of Hong Kong. The researchers studied 153 Chinese men who were at least 55 years and older, lived in the community and didn’t have dementia. Of those men, 47 had mild cognitive impairment — or problems with clear thinking and memory loss.

Within a year, 10 men who all were part of the cognitively impaired group developed probable Alzheimer’s disease. They also had low testosterone; elevated levels of the ApoE 4 (apolipoprotein E) protein, which is correlated with a higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease; and high blood pressure. Going a step further, the research indicates that having good levels of testosterone may also have a protective value against the disease.

Low Testosterone Linked to Greater Risk of Early Death
A report in the BMJ-British Medical Journal this month also reported that low testosterone levels seem to be linked to a heightened risk of premature death from heart disease and all causes.

This research is based on 930 men, all of whom had coronary artery heart disease, and had been referred to a specialist heart centre between 2000 and 2002. Their heart health was then tracked for around 7 years.

On referral, low testosterone was relatively common. One in four of the men was classified as having low testosterone, as opposed to a tailing off in levels of the hormone as a result of ageing. During the monitoring period almost twice as many men with low testosterone died as did those with normal levels.

The only factors that influenced this risk were heart failure, treatment with aspirin or a high blood pressure drug and low bio-T levels. A low bio-T level was an independent risk factor for premature death from all causes and from heart disease, after taking account of other influential factors, such as age, other underlying health problems, smoking and weight.

It is not just low levels that are a problem either, as borderline levels of low total testosterone also increased the risk of an early death. Low levels are associated with obesity, risky blood fats, and insulin resistance, all of which are themselves risk factors for diabetes and heart disease.

Time for a visit to the doctor?

High blood pressure? Eat more beetroot – or chocolate – or garlic!

July 14, 2010 by  
Filed under Health

Before you succumb to medication for high blood pressure there are a number of things you can try to bring it down naturally. The two best-known, and most frequently recommended are to lose weight and take more exercise. Now we can add a third element and that is the humble beetroot, which according to research from Queen Mary University of London can indeed lower your blood pressure.

It seems that the reason it can do this is down to the nitrate content of beetroot juice, according to the study, published online in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension. Their study found that blood pressure was lowered within 24 hours in people who took nitrate tablets, and people who drank beetroot juice.

Cardiovascular disease (including stroke and heart attacks) now ranks as the world’s biggest killer and those seeking a natural approach to lowering blood pressure just need to get out their juicer. The nitrate found in beetroot juice is beneficial because it increases the levels of the gas nitric oxide in the circulation.

Whether the volunteers in the study were given inorganic nitrate capsules or beetroot juice when their blood pressure responses were compared they were found to be equally effective in lowering blood pressure. This clearly demonstrates that it is the nitrate content of beetroot juice that underlies its potential to reduce blood pressure.

If you’re not a particular fan of beetroot, then take heart from because the study found that only a small amount of juice is needed — just 250ml — to have this effect, and that the higher the blood pressure at the start of the study the greater the decrease caused by the nitrate.

In fact if you prefer you might want to pay attention to some new research which shows that just a small amount of chocolate a day can help in reducing high blood pressure in individuals suffering from hypertension. Naturally, it has to be a good quality dark chocolate containing 70% cocoa as that is rich in flavanols, which open up your blood vessels to help the blood flow more freely and so causing the pressure to drop.

Dr. Karin Ried from the University of Adelaide, Australia carried out the study and is also the one that in 2008 conducted a study which found that garlic extract has a significant beneficial effect for high blood pressure sufferers. In Brighton, where I live, there is a chocolate shop which has all kinds of wonderful combination, chilli chocolate being just one of them, but I don’t think I’ve seen a garlic one yet. Perhaps I could suggest a beetroot and garlic combo so you could get all those blood pressure lowering ingredients in one delicious bar!

Research Proves High Blood Pressure Reduced With Celery

March 17, 2010 by  
Filed under featured, Health


Simple self-help measures go a long way to reducing blood pressure and if you have already undertaken daily walking and stress reduction then it might be an idea to adding celery to your diet.

The health-giving benefits of celery are not new: the original Father of Medicine was Hippocrates who prescribed drinking celery juice to patients suffering from nervous tension and Chinese medicine has long recognized celery juice as able to reduce high blood pressure. However, now science has got in on the act to ‘prove’ whether it works, and I am happy to report that all those millions of people who have tried it over the centuries were absolutely right.

Blood pressure is the force exerted by blood pushing against the walls of the arteries and if the pressure rises significantly and remains there for an extended period of time, it can cause serious damage to the body. A blood pressure reading is measured by two numbers. The systolic (higher) number is the measure of pressure the blood exerts while the heart is beating and the diastolic (lower) number is the measure of pressure the blood exerts while the heart is relaxed. The ‘norm’ if there is such a thing is to aim for an optimal blood pressure of 120/80.

The University of Chicago Medical Center (UCMC) is credited with carrying out one of the first scientific studies of celery’s effects on blood pressure. In one of the reported results, the father of a scientist at UCMC experienced a drop in his blood pressure from 158/96 to 118/82 after just one week of eating about four stalks of celery a day. It has this effect because it contains active compounds named phthalides which naturally relax the muscles in and around the walls of the arteries. This causes those vessels to dilate, creating more space inside the arteries that permits the blood to flow at a lower pressure.

Phthalides also have been reported to lower blood pressure and promote a healthy circulatory system by reducing the level of stress hormones in the body by their high content of the minerals magnesium, potassium, and calcium. These all have calming effects on the nervous system, and that naturally helps balance stress levels.

If you want to try it then please juice or eat around four sticks a day – wonderful though baked celery in cheese sauce is, it just won’t give you the same benefits.

Cocoa and high blood pressure

September 26, 2009 by  
Filed under Diets, Food & Nutrition, Medical Research & Studies


Now, I would have thought that a good cup of cocoa would certainly make you feel better but because of its high caffeine content I wouldn’t have thought of it as a treatment for high blood pressure.

But who am I to disagree with researchers from Harvard? It seems that although 3 in 10 of us in the UK suffer from the condition there is one place in the world where it is virtually unknown. The Kuna Indians live on a group of islands off the Caribbean coast of Panama and hypertension does not exist there. Once the islanders reach 60, they have a perfect average blood pressure of 110/70 which is something to be envied and they also have much lower death rates from heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, and cancer.

So what’s their secret? It is certainly not their salt intake as that is as high as in the UK, but because they drink 5 cups of cocoa every day. WE know that the flavonols in cocoa stimulate your body’s production of nitric oxide and that boosts blood flow to your heart, brain, and other organs. If you are taking a daily aspirin to thin your blood you might like to know that one study found cocoa thins your blood just as well. Certainly tastes better, and one Harvard Medical School professor claims cocoa can also treat blocked arteries, congestive heart failure, stroke, dementia, and even impotence.

No more to be said really, but I would stick to organic cocoa and I am not sure if the islanders make it with milk or not, but if you do then make sure that’s organic too so you get the maximum benefit

Common virus may be cause of high blood pressure

High blood pressure can lead to an increased risk for heart disease, stroke and kidney disease with 1 in 20 adults in the UK being affected and as many as 70 percent of adult diabetics. It’s causes can be varied, from genetic predisposition, medical conditions and stress, but now there may be a completely different explanation. Researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center believe that a common viral infection might also be a cause.

The virus in question is cytomegalovirus, part of the herpes family, and it infects between 40 and 80 percent of adults worldwide. It is spread through bodily fluids such as saliva and urine, and can be transmitted from person to person through close bodily contact. Like most other herpes-type viruses, once you’re infected by CMV it will remain dormant in your body for the rest of your life, though you may never show any symptoms. If a woman has CMV it can be passed on to her unborn child and it is estimated that one in every 200 babies will be born with congenital CMV.

Viruses have the ability to turn on human genes and, in this case, the CMV virus is enhancing expression of renin, an enzyme directly involved in causing high blood pressure a whole new approach to treating hypertension, with anti-viral therapies or vaccines becoming part of the prescription.”

This breakthrough came about because for the first time researchers were brought together from a combination of disciplines including allergies, cardiology, infectious diseases and pathology. This collaborative venture meant that insights were shared and led to a statement from author Clyde Crumpacker, MD the co-author of the study and Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School that.. “This new discovery may eventually provide doctors with a whole new approach to treating hypertension, with anti-viral therapies or vaccines becoming part of the prescription.”

Heart attack risk linked to bodys fat distribution

The link between heart attack risk and being overweight is well-established, but now it seems that it is not so much how much extra weight you are carrying, but where it is on the body that increases the risk factor. Two studies, one in the US at the Medical College of Wisconsin and another at Tel-Aviv University in Israel indicate if extra weight is all carried on the stomach and abdomen then you need to take action. In the two separate studies 20,000 subjects had their body mass index (BMI) compared to their waist measurement in relation to cardiovascular disease risk factors. The bigger the waist, the risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and high glucose levels were found to be significantly stronger than the link between those same factors and BMI.

The leader of the Israeli study, Dr David Tanne, pointed out that excessive abdominal fat also raises the risk of other factors associated with metabolic syndrome, such as type 2 diabetes. Their research also found that during a 23-year follow up period that those subjects with excessive abdominal fat were one and a half times more likely to suffer a stroke compared to subjects with the lowest abdominal fat.

What can you do?
Whether you can’t see your feet when looking down, or are just a little soft around the waist, it pays to take preventive action. Heart disease and stroke risk are not to be taken lightly and although regular exercise is certainly essential there is another factor that might help.

Canadian researchers reported in a study published last year in the Journal of Nutrition that having a higher intake of protein might help. Like the other researchers they were also measuring their subjects to assess waist-hip ratio (WHR). The result was that those with the highest waist-hip ratio, indicating excessive abdominal fat, were found to have the lowest intake of protein.

Why would protein have this effect?
A fatty acid called conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) might provide the answer. CLA is most abundant in protein-rich dietary sources such as meat and dairy products. It’s also available in supplement form, and studies have shown that CLA supplements may help reduce body fat mass, but as always take the simplest route first and look at your diet before taking supplements, and then only on the advice of your doctor.

High blood pressure in pregnancy may pose long-term risk

November 12, 2007 by  
Filed under Womens Health

High blood pressure is closely monitored during pregnancy but there is new evidence from a study at the Mayo Clinic in the USA that it is an under-recognized risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Compared with women who have had normal blood pressure throughout their pregnancies, those who had high blood pressure are at greater risk of heart disease later in life. One reason could be that having high blood pressure in pregnancy has some of the same risk factors for cardiovascular disease such as diabetes or obesity. Another theory is that hypertension in pregnancy could induce long-term metabolic and vascular abnormalities that might increase the overall risk of heart disease later in life. Anyone with a family history of heart disease is well advised to have their blood pressure very closely monitored during pregnancy.