Live Heart Healthy. Live Well & Live Long

Heart Doctor Has Message: Salt Kills

Part-time Marco resident pens new book, warning consumers of salt dangers.

Writen by

Don Manley

The title of Dr. Surender Reddy Neravetla’s book is short, sweet and to the point: “Salt Kills.”

Neravetla, who along with his wife, Suchitra, splits time at their home on Marco and their main residence in Springfield, Ohio, where he is Springfield Regional Medical Center’s director of cardiac surgery.

“Salt Kills” is the result of the doctor’s concern for the tremendous and wide-ranging impact the alkali seasoning has on consumers’ health worldwide.

“Over the course of my practice, I’ve ended up taking care of a lot of my colleagues, their families, coworkers and acquaintances on a regular basis and I see them going through a lot of problems that are preventable,” said Neravetla. “I try to explain to them what they need to do so they don’t have to come into our hands and get their chests opened and all of the things that we do.”

Neravetla said he tried doling out healthy advice on minimizing salt intake for about 15 years before deciding to write the book, which he did with assistance from his son, Shantanu, who also is a physician.

“We decided to write it so that maybe it would have more impact,” Neravetla said.

Since “Salt Kills“ was released in March, Neravetla’s found its effectiveness in delivering the message to be far greater than anything he could have done verbally.

In plain, easily understood language, the book lays out how salt affects the body and has become a major contributor to diseases that threaten lives.

“Salt Kills” points out that excessive salt intake is a contributor to high blood pressure, clogged arteries, enlarged hearts, dementia, asthma, osteoporosis, obesity and stomach cancer.

Neravetla expanded upon those facts during an interview last week, pointing out that:

• More than 50 million people in the U.S. have high blood pressure and about 25 million of those cases are undiagnosed

• Alzheimer’s and memory loss problems attributed to high blood pressure and salt intake is the fastest growing health problem in the world

• Having high blood pressure at least doubles the risk of having clogged arteries.

• High blood pressure contributes to an enlarged heart.

• Heart failure is the main cause for hospitalization for people age 60-plus and an enlarged heart from longstanding high blood pressure causes about half of these cases.

Neravetla also gained motivation from something he encountered during a trip to his native India in 2002 after a long absence.

“The first thing I noticed is that everybody’s household is a pharmacy,” Neravetla said. “They’re all on medications.”

Neravetla, then 50, said he found that his contemporaries and older Indians “have all the same health problems that we’re facing here, even though no one smokes and they eat very little meat.”

This surprise left Neravetla grasping for answers and he settled on excess salt in the diet, particularly from processed foods, as the main culprit.

Processed foods, said Neravetla, are responsible for 80 percent of the excess salt we consume, with the remainder coming from adding it to foods as a seasoner.

“There is a huge need for some sort of restraint for the fast-food industry to cut back on it (salt),” Neravetla said.

Neravetla said it’s been extremely rewarding to know that “Salt Kills” is changing lives and that he need look no further than his workplace for proof.

Neravetla he’s seen a dramatic uptick in the number of people at Springfield Regional Medical Center who’ve become conscious of their salt intake and now take pains to minimize its consumption.

The “Salt Kills” message is one he intends to bring into Southwest Florida.

“My vision is to, at least within my limits of my capability, knock on every door in Springfield,” Neravetla said. “We have 75,000 people. Everyone in Springfield needs to know somehow.”

Neravetla said he particularly concerned with getting the word out to African-Americans because the incidence of high blood pressure is much higher in the black community.

“It’s a cause, it’s a mission, it’s a crusade,” Neravetla added. “It’s not about just selling a book. It’s a mission to educate and help people understand the problems with salt.”

Reprinted from Marco Island Sun Times.