Salt, Hypertension and Stroke
“It is the blood pressure, stupid,” wrote Professor Stephen MacMahon, founder and Principal Director of The George Institute for Global Health and Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Sidney. In a published statement he was pleading on behalf of over 50 million people worldwide who suffer from disease of the blood vessels of the brain. He was emphasizing the urgent need to focus our energies on actually lowering blood pressure to reduce the risk of strokes and his frustration with the arguments about which drug works better to lower the blood pressure.
If you are a stroke victim or care for somebody who has suffered a stroke, you will agree that living or dying from a stroke is a horrible way to go. The brain is one of the three main target organs for high blood pressure, which is known as the silent killer. There is no argument about it. As untreated blood pressure creeps up, so does proportionately the risk of having a stroke.
In one of the studies “Blood Pressure and Risk of Stroke in Patients with Cerebrovascular Disease” referenced below, the risk of stroke goes up as much as eight times as the blood pressure goes from 120 mm Hg to 180 mm Hg. In another study of people who had had recent a neurologic event, decreasing the blood pressure cut down the risk of a second and subsequent event by as much as 43 percent in a period of only four years.
You could easily become one of the millions of people worldwide suffering from a stroke. There are 800,000 people in America living with various disabilities caused by strokes. A stroke can leave you unable to use an arm or a leg, or cause you to lose vision in an eye, the ability to talk and communicate, and even bladder and bowel control. Nearly half the people who suffer a stroke go on to live with any or all of the above incapacitating disabilities. You can only imagine their plight. No wonder a stroke victim often tells you that his life is worse than death.
You can dramatically improve your odds by simply cutting out salt and avoiding high blood pressure. Don’t be fooled into thinking high blood pressure does no harm as stated in the New York Times’ op-ed column. Dr. Jacobson is right in writing that this op-ed column is highly irresponsible on this count alone. Yes, your chances of having a stroke dramatically go up with high blood pressure which is caused by salt intake. No question about it. Without falling into trap of misinformation and without making further excuses, focus on the easy task of reducing or eliminating your intake of salt, the real enemy.
- Rodgers A, MacMahon S, Gamble G, et al.; The United Kingdom Transient Ischemic Attack Collaborative Group, Blood pressure and risk of stroke in patients with cerebrovascular disease, BMJ, 1996;313:147–8.
- Randomized trial of a perindopril-based blood-pressure-lowering regimen among 6105 individuals with previous stroke or transient ischemic attack PROGRESS Collaborative Group*THE LANCET • Vol 358 • September 29, 2001
- MacMahon S, Neal B, Rodgers A, Chalmers J. Commentary: The PROGRESS trial three years later: Time for more action, less distraction. BMJ 2004;329:970-1