Sodium and blood pressure


Roundup: Reducing Salt Intake Even Helps Those on Blood Pressure Meds; How Anything is Better Than Too Much Sitting; and More

Everyone can Lower Blood Pressure by Reducing Salt Daily, Even Those on Hypertension Meds

A new study has found that practically everyone can lower their blood pressure by lowering their sodium intake (primarily from salt), even if they are currently on blood pressure-reducing drugs.

The new study, published in JAMA by researchers at Northwestern Medicine, Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the University of Alabama at Birmingham, is considered one  of the largest studies to investigate the effect of reducing sodium in the diet on blood pressure that includes people with hypertension (high blood pressure) and those already on medications.

“We found that 70-75 percent of all people, regardless of whether they are already on blood pressure medications or not, are likely to see a reduction in their blood pressure if they lower the sodium in their diet,” said co-principal investigator Norrina Allen, Ph.D., the Quentin D. Young Professor of Health Policy in the department of Preventive Medicine and co-principal investigator of the study, in a statement.

Table salt is a combination of two minerals — about 40 percent sodium and 60 percent chloride. But more than 70 percent of the sodium consumed comes from packaged, prepared and restaurant foods due to salt added for flavoring, stabilizing, preserving and reducing bacterial risk, states the American Heart Association. The rest of sodium in the diet comes naturally in food (about 15 percent) or from salt added when cooking food or to our plates (about 11 percent), the AHA states.

U.S. dietary guidelines for Americans recommend less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium daily, with 1,500 mg per day being an ideal target for most adults, states the AHA. However, most people consume 50 percent or more of the 2,300 mg-per-day limit.

Here are details of the study, according to a news release from the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern: “Middle-aged to elderly individuals in their 50s to 70s from Birmingham, Ala., and Chicago were randomized to either a high-sodium diet (2,200 mg per day on top of their usual diet) or low-sodium diet (500 mg in total per day) for one week, after which they crossed over to the opposite diet for one week.”

On the day before each study visit, participants wore blood pressure monitors and collected their urine for 24 hours. Among 213 participants, systolic blood pressure was significantly lowered by 7 to 8 mm Hg when they ate the low-sodium diet, compared with high-sodium diet -- and by 6 mm Hg compared with their usual diet. 

Overall, 72 percent of participants experienced a lowering of their systolic blood pressure on the low-sodium diet compared with their usual diet. 

“The effect of reduction in dietary sodium on blood pressure lowering was consistent across nearly all individuals, including those with normal blood pressure, high blood pressure, treated blood pressure and untreated blood pressure,” explained Deepak Gupta, M.D., associate professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and co-principal investigator, in a statement.

New Study: Any ‘Activity’ – Even Standing or Sleeping – is Better for Your Health Than Too Much Sitting

Just about any alternative to sitting --- including sleeping, standing or a short walk for a few minutes --   can improve your heart health, according to the latest study to emphasize the detrimental effects of a sedentary lifestyle, or too much sitting. 

The new study, supported by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) and published in the European Heart Journal, is the first to assess how different movement patterns throughout the 24-hour day are linked to heart health, according to its authors. The researchers identified a “hierarchy of behaviors that make up a typical 24-hour day, with time spent doing moderate-vigorous activity providing the most benefit to heart health, followed by light activity, standing and sleeping compared with the adverse impact of sedentary behavior,” states a news release from the University College London (UCL).

While using a standing desk for a few hours a day instead of a sitting desk can have its benefits, taking higher-intensity activity breaks, such as brisk walking for a few minutes, is even more beneficial.

“The big takeaway from our research is that while small changes to how you move can have a positive effect on heart health, intensity of movement matters,” said Jo Blodgett, M.D., first author of the study from UCL Surgery & Interventional Science and the Institute of Sport, Exercise & Health, in a statement. “The most beneficial change we observed was replacing sitting with moderate to vigorous activity – which could be a run, a brisk walk, or stair climbing – basically any activity that raises your heart rate and makes you breathe faster, even for a minute or two.”

Researchers at UCL reviewed data from six studies, covering 15,246 people from five countries, to determine how “movement behavior” over a 24-hour period was linked to heart health, as measured by common indicators. Each participant used a wearable device on their thigh to measure their activity throughout the 24-hour day and had their heart health measured, said UCL researchers.

Professor Mark Hamer, joint senior author of the study from UCL Surgery & Interventional Science and the Institute of Sport, Exercise & Health, concluded: “Though it may come as no surprise that becoming more active is beneficial for heart health, what’s new in this study is considering a range of behaviors across the whole 24-hour day. This approach will allow us to ultimately provide personalized recommendations to get people more active in ways that are appropriate for them.”

NIH Study: Chronic Sleep Deficiency Increases Insulin Resistance In Women, Raising Risk of Diabetes

Not getting enough health sleep time – at least 7 hours a night for adults – can increase insulin resistance in otherwise healthy women, and even more so in postmenopausal women, concludes a study funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The findings, published in Diabetes Care, stress the importance of adequate sleep in minimizing the risk for type 2 diabetes, which can develop when the body fails to effectively use the vital hormone, insulin, to maintain healthy blood sugar levels, the NIH states.

“Women report poorer sleep than men, so understanding how sleep disturbances impact their health across the lifespan is critical, especially for postmenopausal women,” said Marishka Brown, Ph.D., director of the National Center on Sleep Disorder Research at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), which co-funded the study with the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), both part of NIH.

People with insulin resistance have built up a tolerance to insulin, making the hormone less effective. As a result, more insulin is needed to persuade fat and muscle cells to take up glucose and the liver to continue to store it. It isn’t clear exactly what causes insulin resistance, but a family history of type 2 diabetes, being overweight, and being inactive can raise the risk of insulin resistance. You do not have to be overweight to have insulin resistance.

Previous studies have shown that sleep restriction can elevate risk for conditions such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and disordered glucose metabolism, which can lead to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. But, many of those studies were done only in men or focused on short-term, severe sleep restriction, the NIH states.

The new study enrolled only women and “sought to determine if a prolonged, mild restriction of sleep – a reduction of just 1.5 hours each night – increased women’s blood glucose and insulin levels,” said the NIH.

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