Cutting a Teaspoon of Salt Per Day Significantly Lowers Blood Pressure
An antihypertensive medication is usually the first-line treatment for high blood pressure. However, you may be able to achieve similar blood pressure-lowering results with a simple change in your diet, according to a small study published online recently by JAMA. Study participants included 213 people, ages 50 to 75, with normal blood pressure, controlled high blood pressure, uncontrolled high blood pressure, or untreated high blood pressure. They were asked to try two different diets. Half of the group was randomly assigned to eat a highsalt diet for one week that included 2,200 milligrams (mg) of salt per day. The other half of the group was randomly assigned to eat a low-salt diet for a week that allowed just 500 mg of salt per day. Study participants then switched diets for one week. Their blood pressure measurements and urine samples (to measure salt intake) were collected periodically throughout the study. Researchers found that when participants followed the low-salt diet, most of them experienced an eight-point drop in their systolic blood pressure (the top number in a blood pressure measurement), compared with when they ate a high-salt diet; and a six-point drop, compared with when they ate their usual diets. The low-salt diet reduced sodium intake by about a teaspoon of salt per day, compared with participants’ usual diet. Since most sodium in the diet is found in pre-packaged foods, take a careful look at the ingredients list of various products, and, when possible, opt for sodium-free or low-sodium options that you can enhance with seasonings that boost flavor but won’t boost your blood pressure.
Harvard Study: Smaller Hippocampus Associated with Cognitive Decline Researchers continue to seek a better understanding of memory loss and thinking skills changes that occur in people who develop Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Are those cognitive changes due to the buildup of two toxic proteins in the brain—tau and amyloid-beta—or perhaps other neurodegenerative conditions? One of the early consequences of AD is a loss of volume in the hippocampus, a region of the brain primarily involved with learning and memory. Abnormal levels of tau and amyloid-beta damage neurons, in turn causing brain atrophy, particularly in the hippocampus. But in a study published recently in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, researchers from Harvard Medical School found that loss of volume in the hippocampus was associated with cognitive decline irrespective of amyloid and tau levels. Hippocampus atrophy on its own accounted for about 10 percent of the difference in cognitive decline experienced by study participants between the start of the study and its conclusion about
seven years later. Researchers noted that dementia is a complex condition with many underlying causes, and that other disorders besides AD may contribute to shrinkage of the hippocampus and cognitive decline. The researchers added that monitoring hippocampal volume may help doctors determine which individuals may best respond to the new drugs being developed to halt or reverse the buildup of toxic proteins in the brain.
Reading and Writing Poetry May Help with Loneliness
Various COVID-19 pandemic coping behaviors continue to produce interesting findings for researchers trying to understand why certain people thrived and others struggled during that time. In a study published recently in the Journal of Poetry Therapy, researchers found that reading, writing, and sharing poetry can help people cope with loneliness or isolation and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. A team of British researchers found that many people who started writing poetry and discussing poetry with others experienced “demonstrable positive impacts on their well-being.” Study participants told researchers that reading and writing poetry helped them deal with challenging feelings of anxiety and depression. The findings were based on interviews with users of the former poetryandcovid.com website, which has since been archived as poetryandcovidarchive.com. Users who submitted original poems and offered reactions to the poems of others found a supportive community, as well as a way to give some structure to complicated emotions and experiences. Both of these benefits appear to help people endure difficult experiences by providing outlets that allow them to make sense of those experiences.