Salt and Stroke Risk: May 26, 2012

Geraldine Combs was blindsided by a series of strokes.

“I didn’t know what was going on in the hospital but she told me I had a third stroke. I spent eight months in the hospital.”

Bernice Hicks had one in 2003.

“I was paralyzed on my left side; I couldn’t move my arm and leg.”

Both women had a common risk factor:

“High blood pressure,” says Hicks.

“There’s a direct correlation between a higher risk of strokes when you have high blood pressure. If you’re predisposed with a family history you have to be careful to really limit the salt,” says Dr. Sal Lacagnina, Vice President of Health and Wellness for Lee Memorial Health System.

It’s well known that as people’s sodium intake goes up, so does their blood pressure. New research is showing a correlation between a salty diet and a higher number of strokes.

“If the blood pressure in the brain builds up and you have aneurisms in the brain they can burst. If you bleed in the brain you can die,” says Dr. Lacagnina.

Minorities seem to be disproportionally hit. The American Heart Association suggests people limit sodium intake to no more than 1500 milligrams daily, but blacks and Hispanics studied consumed on average 3100 milligram of sodium a day.

“When you look at ethnic diets, people will either add more salt or use things that are more naturally salty and you really need to understand their culture so that you can help them change the diet,” says Dr. Lacagnina.

Neither Bernice or Geraldine have suffered another stroke since going on medication and changing their diets.

“I eat every vegetable they give me to eat. I eat them even if I don’t like them,” says Combs.