Understanding Different Heat Illnesses

As the temperatures rise during the warmer months, many of us enjoy spending more time outdoors. However, with the increase in temperatures comes the potential risk of heat-related illnesses. Our primary care doctors in Jupiter want you to be informed about the different types of heat illnesses to prevent them and to provide proper care if someone is affected.

1. Heat Stroke

What it is: Heat stroke is the most severe form of heat illness and is a medical emergency. It happens when the body’s temperature rises rapidly, and it can’t cool down.

Symptoms:

  • High body temperature (above 103°F)
  • Hot, red, dry, or damp skin
  • Fast, strong pulse
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Losing consciousness (passing out)

What to do: Call 911 immediately. While waiting for medical professionals, move the person to a cooler place and try to reduce their body temperature with cool cloths or a cool bath. Do not give the person anything to drink.

2. Heat Exhaustion

What it is: Heat exhaustion is a warning that your body can no longer keep itself cool. If left untreated, it can escalate to heat stroke.

Symptoms:

  • Heavy sweating
  • Cold, pale, and clammy skin
  • Fast, weak pulse
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Muscle cramps
  • Tiredness or weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Fainting

What to do: Move to a cool place, loosen your clothes, put cool, wet clothes on your body or take a cool bath. If the person is fully conscious, they can sip water. If the symptoms worsen or last longer than an hour, seek medical attention.

3. Heat Cramps

What it is: Muscle spasms or pains that occur due to intense exercise in hot weather.

Symptoms:

  • Muscle cramps, usually in the legs or abdomen
  • Heavy sweating

What to do: Stop the activity and move to a cool place. Drink water or a sports drink. Wait for the cramps to go away before you do any more physical activity.

4. Heat Rash

What it is: Skin irritation from excessive sweating.

Symptoms:

  • Red clusters of small blisters that look like pimples on the skin
  • Usually appears on the neck, chest, groin, or elbow creases

What to do: Stay in a cool, dry place. Keep the rash dry and avoid using ointments or creams as they can keep the skin warm and moist, worsening the condition.

5. Dehydration

What it is: A lack of enough water in the body, often caused by too much sweating.

Symptoms:

  • Dry mouth and throat
  • Dark yellow urine
  • Not urinating much
  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
  • Feeling tired
  • Dry skin

What to do: Drink plenty of fluids, preferably water. If dehydration is severe and accompanied by symptoms like confusion, rapid heartbeat, or rapid breathing, seek medical attention immediately.

Prevention Tips

  • Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of water throughout the day. Avoid drinks with caffeine or alcohol as they can dehydrate you.
  • Dress Appropriately: Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing. Use a wide-brimmed hat or an umbrella for shade.
  • Stay Cool: Avoid direct sunlight whenever possible, especially during the hottest parts of the day. Use fans or air conditioning to cool down.
  • Limit Outdoor Activities: Do strenuous activities during the cooler parts of the day, such as early morning or late evening.

By understanding the signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses and taking preventive measures, you can safely enjoy the warm weather without the health risks. Always listen to your body, and if you or someone around you is showing signs of a heat illness, take it seriously and seek medical attention if needed.

Saliva Health Indicators: When to See a Doctor

Saliva, or spit as we colloquially know it, plays a vital role in not just digestion and oral health, but also in reflecting our overall health. Although it’s easy to overlook this clear liquid produced by the salivary glands, it can sometimes act as an early warning system for potential health issues.

Below, our primary care doctors in Jupiter share the different signs in your saliva that might indicate it’s time to visit a doctor:

1. Thick, Sticky, and Reduced Saliva:

When saliva feels thick and sticky, it can be an indication of dehydration. Saliva should ideally be clear and watery, so when consistency changes, it might be a sign that your body needs more hydration. Prolonged thick saliva, however, can hint at more severe conditions, such as Sjögren’s syndrome, and should warrant a doctor’s visit.

2. Frequent Dry Mouth:

While occasional dryness can be due to stress or temporary dehydration, a persistent dry mouth can be a symptom of underlying issues. Conditions like diabetes, certain medications, or autoimmune diseases can lead to chronic dry mouth. If you find yourself constantly reaching for water, it’s essential to consult with a doctor.

3. Unpleasant Odor:

Bad breath occasionally happens to everyone, but if you notice an unpleasant or unusual odor consistently, even with good oral hygiene, it might be a sign of oral infections, respiratory infections, or even digestive system disorders.

4. Presence of Blood:

If you notice blood in your saliva, especially when you haven’t injured your mouth or gums, it can indicate gum disease, oral infections, or other health issues. It’s essential to seek medical advice promptly.

5. White Patches or Lumps:

White patches in the mouth or lumps in the cheek lining, often accompanied by changes in saliva, can be indicative of oral thrush or even precancerous lesions. Any such changes should be evaluated by a healthcare professional immediately.

6. Saliva with an Unusual Taste:

A metallic, bitter, or unusual taste can indicate gum disease, medication side effects, or other systemic conditions. If this persists, it’s time for a check-up.

Tips to Maintain Healthy Saliva Production:

  • Stay Hydrated: Drink adequate water throughout the day.
  • Chew Sugar-Free Gum: It stimulates saliva production.
  • Incorporate Crunchy Fruits and Vegetables: Foods like apples can boost saliva.
  • Limit Caffeine and Alcohol: They can cause mouth dryness.
  • Dental Check-ups: Regular visits help in the early detection of potential problems.

Your saliva can be a telltale sign of many underlying health conditions. While not every change indicates a serious health concern, staying informed and proactive is always wise. If you notice any persistent abnormalities in your saliva’s appearance or feel, it’s essential to seek medical guidance. Remember, it’s always better to be safe than sorry!

Dental Hygiene and Overall Health: Why it Matters

As a team of dedicated primary care providers in Jupiter, we’re committed to the comprehensive health and well-being of our patients. While we focus on numerous aspects of health care, one area that often gets overlooked is dental hygiene. However, dental health is not an isolated facet of your well-being; it’s intrinsically linked to your overall health. Today, we want to emphasize the importance of dental hygiene and how maintaining it can contribute to a healthier you.

The Mouth: A Window to Your Health

Your mouth is a gateway to the rest of your body. What’s happening in your mouth often mirrors your overall health condition. Oral health and systemic health are not separate entities; they are two sides of the same coin. A healthy mouth can help you ward off medical disorders, while an unhealthy mouth, particularly if you have gum disease, may increase your risk of severe health problems like heart attack and stroke.

The Connection Between Oral Health and Systemic Diseases

Numerous studies have linked oral health issues like gum disease to an array of health problems, including cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, respiratory issues, and even certain types of cancer. Researchers suggest that inflammation in the mouth can release harmful bacteria into the bloodstream, leading to other systemic health issues.

For instance, gum disease (periodontitis) has been linked with cardiovascular diseases. The harmful bacteria can travel through the bloodstream, triggering inflammation, and contributing to the formation of arterial plaque, leading to heart disease.

Similarly, periodontitis can make it difficult for people with diabetes to control their blood sugar, creating a vicious cycle of deteriorating oral and general health.

Why Regular Dental Care is Crucial

As primary care providers, we place a high value on prevention, early detection, and timely treatment, the principles that also apply to dental care. Regular dental check-ups allow for early detection of oral health issues, which can prevent them from escalating into more serious systemic health problems.

Moreover, your dentist can also spot early signs of nutritional deficiencies, general infections, and even more severe systemic diseases during a routine oral examination.

Concierge Medicine and Coordinated Care

One of the significant advantages of concierge medicine is our ability to provide coordinated, comprehensive care. In our practice, we understand the crucial link between oral health and overall well-being. As a result, we include dental health advice as part of our preventive health strategies and remind our patients about the importance of regular dental check-ups.

Our personalized and attentive approach allows us to work closely with our patients, guiding them on all aspects of their health, including dental hygiene. As your primary care providers, we make sure your healthcare journey is well-coordinated, encompassing every facet of your health.

Your Health, Your Responsibility

While we are here to provide you with the best possible healthcare, maintaining good oral hygiene starts at home. Simple habits like brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, flossing daily, eating a healthy diet, and avoiding tobacco can make a big difference in keeping your mouth healthy.

In conclusion, oral health plays a significant role in maintaining your overall health. At MD2.0 in Jupiter, we believe in a holistic approach to your well-being, and dental hygiene forms a crucial part of it. Remember, a healthy smile is just one more reason to smile about your health!

[Note: Always consult with your healthcare provider or your dentist for all health-related advice and information.]

Keep smiling, stay healthy!

Improve Your Nutrition with these Simple Steps 

Nutrition plays a crucial role in providing the necessary nutrients for our bodies to function properly. These essential nutrients include carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals. Carbohydrates provide energy, proteins are vital for tissue growth and repair, fats contribute to insulation and organ protection, while vitamins and minerals are required for various bodily functions, such as building strong bones, maintaining a healthy immune system, and supporting heart and brain health.

A balanced and healthy diet, consisting of a variety of foods from different food groups, ensures that our bodies receive all the necessary nutrients. Proper nutrition not only helps to maintain healthy body weight but also reduces the risk of chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. On the other hand, a poor diet lacking essential nutrients can lead to malnutrition and various health problems. Therefore, good nutrition is essential for overall health and well-being.

There are several ways to improve your nutrition, including:

  • Encouraging a balanced diet: Consume a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. A balanced diet provides the necessary nutrients for the body to function properly.
  • Ensuring adequate hydration: Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and other fluids. This helps prevent dehydration, which can lead to health problems.
  • Providing smaller, more frequent meals: Instead of large meals, consider offering smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day, especially for adults. This ensures they receive the necessary nutrients without feeling overwhelmed.
  • Offering nutrient-dense snacks: Opt for nutrient-dense snacks such as fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. These snacks boost energy levels and provide essential nutrients.

In conclusion, in addition to prioritizing good nutrition, it is beneficial to seek guidance and support from primary care concierge doctors in Jupiter. These healthcare professionals specialize in personalized care and can offer valuable insights and recommendations tailored to individual needs. Collaborating with primary care doctors can further enhance one’s journey toward optimal nutrition and overall health. By combining their expertise with the principles of a balanced diet, hydration, and nutrient-dense snacks, individuals can receive comprehensive care that addresses their unique requirements and fosters long-term well-being. Together, the commitment to sound nutrition and the assistance of primary care concierge doctors empower patients to lead fulfilling and healthy lives.

Why is Elderly Nutrition So Important?

If our primary care concierge doctors in Jupiter could choose the most important thing for elderly care, it would be nutrition. Elderly nutrition is crucial because as we age, our bodies undergo changes that make it more challenging to obtain the nutrients we need to stay healthy.  

Older Age Means More Changes

As we age, our metabolism slows down, our digestive system becomes less efficient, and our senses of taste and smell may diminish, which leads to a reduced appetite and a decreased interest in eating.

Additionally, older adults are more likely to have chronic health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and osteoporosis, which can all be affected by diet. Proper nutrition can help manage these conditions, prevent complications, and improve overall quality of life.

Get the Good Stuff

Good nutrition is essential for maintaining muscle mass and bone density, which can help prevent falls and fractures. A balanced diet that includes adequate protein, calcium, and vitamin D is crucial for older adults to maintain strong bones and muscles.

Elderly nutrition is essential for several reasons:

  1. Health: Proper nutrition is essential for maintaining good health, especially as we age. A balanced diet that includes a variety of foods from all food groups helps to provide the necessary nutrients for good health, such as vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
  2. Chronic Diseases: Good nutrition can help prevent or manage chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis, which are more common in older adults.
  3. Immune System: Adequate nutrition is crucial for maintaining a healthy immune system, which can help protect against infectious diseases and illnesses.
  4. Mental health: Good nutrition impacts mental health, such as reducing the risk of depression and cognitive decline.
  5. Quality of Life: Proper nutrition can improve the quality of life for older adults by increasing energy levels, maintaining a healthy weight, and improving overall physical and mental well-being.

Overall, elderly nutrition is essential for maintaining good health, preventing chronic diseases, and improving the quality of life in older adults. 

Learn About this Devastating Mental Disease and How to Stay Ahead

Alzheimer’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects the brain, causing progressive cognitive decline, memory loss, and behavioral changes. It is the most common cause of dementia and is characterized by the accumulation of abnormal proteins in the brain.


June is recognized as Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month, a time to raise awareness about this devastating disease and to support those who are affected by it. Our concierge primary care doctors in Jupiter want to discuss some important facts about Alzheimer’s disease, as well as tips for maintaining brain health and reducing your risk of developing the disease.

Facts about Alzheimer’s disease:

  • Alzheimer’s disease affects more than 6 million people in the United States, and that number is expected to triple by 2060.
  • There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but early detection and intervention can help manage symptoms and improve quality of life.
  • Alzheimer’s disease is more common in older adults, but it can also affect younger people.
  • Genetics, lifestyle factors, and environmental factors may all play a role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
  • There are several different types of dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease is just one of them.

Tips for maintaining brain health:

  • Stay physically active: Regular exercise can help improve blood flow to the brain and promote the growth of new brain cells.
  • Eat a healthy diet: A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein can help support brain health.
  • Stay mentally active: Engage in activities that challenge your brain, such as puzzles, reading, or learning a new skill.
  • Stay socially connected: Social interaction can help reduce the risk of cognitive decline.
  • Manage chronic health conditions: Conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity can increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, so it’s important to manage these conditions through lifestyle changes and/or medication.

In conclusion, Alzheimer’s disease is a complex and devastating condition that affects millions of people worldwide. By raising awareness and taking steps to maintain brain health, we can work to reduce the impact of this disease and improve the quality of life for those affected by it.

Surprising Facts About Skin Cancer

You may think you already know everything about skin cancer. But because May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, our concierge primary care doctors in Jupiter want to share some facts about this often-deadly disease that you may not be aware of.

Brief Skin Cancer Recap

Let’s start with some facts about skin cancer you may already know:

  • Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer, followed by squamous cell carcinoma. Both can easily be cured if caught in time, but they can be disfiguring and expensive to treat.
  • Malignant melanoma is the most deadly type of skin cancer. It represents only about three percent of all skin cancers diagnosed but is responsible for the most deaths. That’s because of its tendency to spread to other parts of the body, including vital organs. But when diagnosed early, its five-year survival rate is 99 percent.
  • The most preventable cause of skin cancer is exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light, either from the sun or from artificial sources like tanning beds.
  • About 90 percent of non-melanoma skin cancers and 85 percent of melanoma cases are associated with exposure to UV radiation.
  • One bad sunburn in childhood doubles the risk for melanoma later in life. Having five or more sunburns doubles your risk for melanoma. A single indoor tanning session increases your risk of melanoma by 20 percent.
  • Even if it’s cool and cloudy, you still need protection, because ultraviolet (UV) light can penetrate clouds.

Odd Skin Cancer Facts

There are other facts about skin cancer that you might never have heard before.

1. For example, did you know that more men than women die of melanoma? The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) says that one reason may be that men know less than women about skin cancer and that they use sunscreen less than women do.

Men’s skin is also more prone to penetration by UV rays than women’s because they have thicker skin with less fat beneath. A man’s skin also contains more collagen and elastin, making men’s skin more likely to be damaged by UV light.

2. On the other hand, one study found a greater association between white wine consumption and a higher risk of melanoma in women. Those who drink a glass of white wine each day showed a 13 percent increased risk of invasive melanoma (meaning it’s gone deeper than the top layer of skin), while those who drank the most white wine had an increased risk of 50 percent or higher than those who don’t drink any alcohol.

3. UV rays can penetrate glass in windows, both at home and in the car. This helps explain why left-sided facial cancers, especially in men, are more common. It’s all about the position we drive in, with the left side of the body exposed to more UV light. Windshields are treated to block UV rays, but side, back and sunroof windows aren’t. Also, be aware that UV rays can not only penetrate glass, but also can “bounce” under beach umbrellas and reflect off of concrete surfaces.

4. It’s extremely rare for a mole to transform into a melanoma, according to Dr. Ashfaq Marghoob, a dermatologist with the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. While melanoma can develop in a preexisting mole, nearly 70 percent do not. At the same time, the presence of many moles can identify those who are at an increased risk for developing melanoma somewhere else on their skin.

That’s why it’s important to apply sunscreen to all parts of the body.

“Some people use sunblock only where they have moles because they think the moles themselves are dangerous,” he says.

5. Caffeine may protect against skin cancer. One study found that women who drank more than three cups of coffee daily were 21 percent less likely to develop basal cell carcinoma (BCC), the most common type of skin cancer. Men were 10 percent less likely to develop BCC.

6. Melanomas are not necessarily brown. Some have no color or are pink or appear as simple bumps on the skin. That’s why it’s important not to try to diagnose skin cancer on your own.

“Be aware of isolated or pink spots, especially if the spot looks different than any other marks on the skin,” Marghoob says. “Pay attention to any spot or mark that has an uneven texture, shape, border, or distribution of colors,” he added. “In addition, any spot that has changed in some way should prompt a visit to your doctor.”

Avoiding Skin Cancer

To avoid getting skin cancer, the most common cancer in the U.S. and around the world, the AAD recommends these steps.

  • Seek shade. The sun’s rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. If your shadow appears to be shorter than you are, stay in the shade as much as possible.
  • Wear sun-protective clothing, such as a lightweight long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses with UV protection. For more effective protection, choose clothing with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) number on the label.
  • Apply a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to all skin not covered by clothing. Broad-spectrum sunscreen provides protection from both UVA and UVB rays.

If you have any questions about how to protect yourself from the sun or notice new or suspicious spots on your skin or any spots that are changing, itching, or bleeding, let us know.

Is Exercise Better Than Drugs for Mental Health?

If our primary care concierge doctors in Jupiter could prescribe a single treatment for a host of different health concerns, it would be exercise.

For example, one study published in the journal BMJ compared exercise alone versus drug therapy alone and found that for heart disease, diabetes control or prevention, stroke rehabilitation, and treatment of heart failure, regular physical exercise was just as effective as prescription medications in treating many of these conditions.

And according to the Mayo Clinic, some of the disorders that benefit from regular exercise include:

  • Heart disease – In addition to strengthening the heart muscle and lowering blood pressure, exercise can help you be more active without experiencing chest pain or other symptoms.
  • Diabetes – Regular exercise can not only help insulin more effectively lower your blood sugar level, but also help control weight and boost energy.
  • Asthma – Exercise has been shown to control the frequency and severity of asthma attacks.
  • Back pain – Regular low-impact aerobic exercise can help increase the strength of your back muscles and improve endurance and muscle function.
  • Arthritis – Exercise is the primary approach to reduce pain, help maintain muscle strength in affected joints and reduce joint stiffness.

What About the Brain?

It makes sense, then, that the benefits of exercise would also impact the brain.

And that’s just what a new study, published in February in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, revealed. Researchers from the University of South Australia correlated data from 1,039 studies involving more than 128,000 volunteers.

They found that physical activity was 1.5 times more effective for managing depression than either counseling or the leading medications typically prescribed for the disease.

The review showed that exercise interventions that were 12 weeks or shorter were the most effective at reducing mental health symptoms, showing how quickly physical activity can make a difference, Science Daily reported.

“Our review shows that physical activity interventions can significantly reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety in all clinical populations,” lead researcher Dr. Ben Singh said in a statement.

“We also found that all types of physical activity and exercise were beneficial, including aerobic exercises such as walking, resistance, training, Pilates, and yoga,” he said. 

“Importantly, the research shows that it doesn’t take much for exercise to make a positive change to your mental health.”

Even a Little Bit Helps

This last finding is important because one of the hallmarks of depression is a lack of energy. So asking them to engage in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) recommendation of 150 minutes of moderate physical activity every week is akin to asking them to climb a mountain with a broken leg.

Another study, published this month in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, offers similar reassurance that any regular movement can make a difference.

For this study, the researchers looked at 15 studies involving more than 190,000 subjects.

They found that people who engaged in brisk walking for a total of 2.5 hours a week had a lower risk of depression than those who didn’t exercise at all. 

“Most benefits are realized when moving from no activity to at least some,” the study authors wrote. 

“Our findings, therefore, have important new implications for health practitioners making lifestyle recommendations, especially to inactive individuals who may perceive the currently recommended target [of 2.5 hours a week] as unrealistic,” they added.

How Does it Work?

There are several reasons exercise has such a positive effect on depression and anxiety, according to Dr. Antonia Baum, an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at George Washington University, who was not involved in these studies.

It can improve blood circulation to the brain and have a positive impact on inflammation and the body’s immune response, she told U.S. News, noting the connection between heart health and depression. There may also be intangible benefits such as getting stronger or feeling empowered or gaining a sense of well-being.

Yet another recent meta-review of 41 studies involving 2,265 people with depression found that almost any type of exercise substantially reduces symptoms of depression, The Washington Post reported.

“We found large, significant results,” said study leader Andreas Heissel, an exercise scientist at the University of Potsdam in Germany.

Although more exercise produced greater results, “Something is better than nothing,” Heissel noted.

Small Moves

Jennifer Heisz, a neuroscientist and an associate professor in the Department of Kinesiology at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, who was not involved in these studies, was even more encouraging.

“Any movement, every movement, every step counts,” she told U.S. News.

“It doesn’t have to be as much as you need for physical health,” she added. “You can get by with half of that, and this is very consistent with the literature.”

Heisz suggested that people try to move a little every day, even if it’s just a five- or 10-minute walk, or a two-minute movement break every half hour for those who sit all day.

“That’s how simple we need to get, especially for people who are not moving at all, and to acknowledge that there is this additional barrier of motivation for people who are suffering from depression,” she said.

One final word: It’s important not to try to treat depression yourself. We can help guide you through different approaches or even recommend other professionals that can help.

If you have thoughts of harming yourself, dial or text the new national suicide hotline number 988 for immediate help.

We’re Still Consuming Too Much Salt, WHO Warns

Our concierge primary care doctors in Jupiter often caution our patients about their salt intake, but now a new report from the World Health Organization (WHO) appears to lend new weight to that advice.

Unless governments act to restrict the salt content in our food, seven million people will die unnecessarily from diseases linked to excessive salt consumption, the WHO warned last month.

“Unhealthy diets are a leading cause of death and disease globally, and excessive sodium intake is one of the main culprits,” WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreysesus said in a statement.

“This report shows that most countries are yet to adopt any mandatory sodium reduction policies, leaving their people at risk of heart attack, stroke, and other health problems,” he added.

The Damage Salt Does

“Excessive sodium intake is the top risk factor for an unhealthy diet, and it is responsible for 1.8 million deaths each year,” Francesco Branca, director of the WHO’s Department of Nutrition for Health and Development, explained.

“This is really something that doesn’t cost money to anybody,” he said. “It’s a simple intervention, but it’s incredibly effective.”

Science has known for decades that too much salt is harmful.

The American Heart Association (AHA) says, “[T]he science behind sodium reduction is clear. Significant evidence links excess sodium intake with high blood pressure, which increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, and heart failure.”

“Sodium,” by the way, is not the same as salt. Salt, or sodium chloride, is a crystal-like compound that is abundant in nature. Sodium is a mineral, and one of the chemical elements found in salt. Nevertheless, most people tend to use the two words interchangeably.

“If you retain more salt in the body, it slowly puts up the blood pressure,” Graham MacGregor, a professor of cardiovascular medicine at the Queen Mary University of London, told The Washington Post.

“That raised blood pressure then causes strokes, heart attacks, or heart failure,” he explained. MacGregor was not involved in the study, but campaigns in favor of reducing salt intake.

History of Salt

Humans have used salt since ancient times, to preserve food as well as to flavor it. Cities around the world sprang up near sources of salt, according to Wikipedia.

But we’re getting too much of a good thing. The average American today consumes 55 percent more salt than in 1980, large thanks to the proliferation of processed foods.

When food began to be mass-produced, manufacturers quickly discovered that salt not only preserved their products longer and enhanced the flavor of less-flavorful foods, but also caused consumers to crave more of it.

At least one 2016 study on mice by Australian researchers appeared to identify the opioid system in the central amygdala region of the brain as the mechanism linked to our addiction to salt, the same pathway responsible for our addiction to drugs.

“It wasn’t until now known that our natural opioids working in this emotional hotspot drove salt cravings,” neuroscientist Craig Smith of the Florey and Deakin University, told the Sydney Morning Herald.

So salt begets a desire for more salt, and manufacturers are happy to comply. It’s far cheaper to add loads of salt to a product than to use more expensive herbs and spices. 

The Scoop on Salt

There’s no denying that we need a certain amount of salt to live. To maintain bodily functions, we require approximately 500 milligrams per day.

Moderate amounts of sodium also help maintain the extracellular fluid necessary for the cells’ function. Without adequate sodium, the body’s fluids would dehydrate, resulting in low blood pressure and death.

The current dietary guidelines recommend 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day. The AHA recommends even less (about 1,500 milligrams) for those at risk of heart disease. This includes adults ages 51 and older, Blacks, and those with high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease.

Most Americans, however, consume an average of 3,400 milligrams of sodium per day.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), sodium attracts water, and a high-sodium diet draws water into the bloodstream, thus increasing the volume of blood and subsequently your blood pressure.

Over time, high blood pressure (hypertension) injures blood pressure walls, leading to the build-up of plaque that blocks blood flow. Because hypertension causes the heart to work too hard, the high force of blood flow can harm arteries and organs throughout the body (heart, kidneys, brain, and eyes).

How to Cut Back

According to the AHA, more than 70 percent of the sodium we consume comes from packaged and restaurant foods.

“That can make it hard to control how much sodium you eat because it’s added to your food before you buy it,” the organization says.

Nevertheless, there are things you can do:

  • Compare labels, looking for the lowest amount of sodium you can find.
  • Pick fresh and frozen poultry that hasn’t been injected with a sodium solution.
  • Opt for canned vegetables labeled “no salt added” and frozen vegetables without salty sauces.
  • Drain and rinse canned beans and vegetables.
  • Cook pasta, rice, and hot cereal without salt.
  • At restaurants, ask for your dish to be made without extra salt.

One final tip: Incorporate foods with potassium like sweet potatoes, potatoes, greens, tomatoes and lower-sodium tomato sauce, white beans, kidney beans, nonfat yogurt, oranges, bananas, and cantaloupe. Potassium helps counter the effects of sodium and may help lower your blood pressure.

Zero-Calorie Sweetener Linked to Heart Attacks, Strokes

You may have heard the expression, “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.” It means that few things are actually free; there’s often a hidden cost to “freebies.”

Our concierge primary care doctors in Jupiter were reminded of that saying when we heard the results of a new study on the sugar substitute erythritol, popular in keto diets, which suggested it can cause an increase in strokes and heart attacks.

The Study

Researchers from the Cleveland Clinic evaluated more than 4,000 Americans and Europeans who were being evaluated for heart disease. The results, published last month in the journal Nature Medicine, showed that those with the highest blood concentration of the artificial sweetener erythritol were at an increased risk of heart attack or stroke in the following three years.

The researchers examined the subjects’ blood platelets—the type of blood cell that sticks together to form blood clots—and found those with the highest level of erythritol showed increased platelet activity, thereby encouraging the greater formation of clots. Clots in the bloodstream have the potential to cause heart attacks or strokes when they block the normal flow of blood.

The researchers also injected mice with erythritol and found that clots formed more quickly after an injury than those who had been injected with saline.

Finally, they took blood samples from subjects who had consumed an erythritol-sweetened drink and found levels of the sweetener remained high for two days.

“Every way we looked at it, it kept showing the same signal,” Stanley Hazen, a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic, who also directs the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Microbiome and Human Health, told The New York Times.

“People are trying to do something healthy for themselves but inadvertently may be doing harm,” he told the paper.

About Erythritol

Erythritol is a sugar alcohol like xylitol and sorbitol and is found naturally in many fruits, vegetables, and fermented foods. It is also manufactured artificially for use in food products.

It has become more popular than earlier types of artificial sweeteners because it has no lingering aftertaste, doesn’t spike blood sugar, and doesn’t cause the laxative effect common with other such additives.

USA Today reports that it is added to many processed foods and beverages and is commonly found in products aimed at those on the keto diet because it does not affect blood glucose. It is also an ingredient in the sweetener Truvia.

“Erythritol looks like sugar, it tastes like sugar, and you can bake with it,” Hazen told CNN.

“It’s become the sweetheart of the food industry, an extremely popular additive to keto and other low-carb products and foods marketed to people with diabetes,” he added.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) lists erythritol as generally recognized as safe or GRAS. Therefore, it is not required to be listed on a product’s ingredient list, according to Hazen. The label might simply say, “artificially sweetened with natural products,” or “zero sugar.”

Other Research

Robert Rankin, executive director of the Calorie Control Council, an association representing the low- and reduced-calorie food and beverage industry, told USA Today that the people in the study were at higher risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD), so the results shouldn’t be applied to the general population.

“The results of this study are contrary to decades of scientific research showing reduced-calorie sweeteners like erythritol are safe,” he said.

But other studies have raised the question about the safety of erythritol.

For example, Karsten Hiller, a biochemist, and specialist in human metabolism at the Braunschweig Institute of Technology in Germany published a paper in 2017 showing that Cornell University freshmen whose blood contained high levels of erythritol gained more weight than students with low levels, the USA Today reported. Which kind of defeats the purpose of using an artificial sweetener.

“Science needs to take a deeper dive into erythritol and in a hurry, because this substance is widely available right now,” Andrew Freeman, director of cardiovascular prevention and wellness at National Jewish Health, a hospital in Denver, told CNN. Freeman was not involved in Hazen’s research.

Hazen agreed.

“I normally don’t get up on a pedestal and sound the alarm,” he told CNN.

“But this is something that I think we need to be looking at carefully,” he added.

Eating Healthier

Artificial sweeteners in general have been called into question by numerous studies. For example, a 2020 study by a group of Yale researchers found that those who used the artificial sweetener sucralose (found in the brand names Splenda, Zerocal, and others) can result in high blood sugar levels in the blood. The Washington Post reports that sucralose is found in thousands of consumer-packaged goods such as baked goods, yogurt, canned soups, condiments, and syrups.

Another study at the Weizmann Institute of Science last year looked at what happened to subjects who consumed aspartame, saccharine, stevia, or sucralose in amounts well below the FDA’s daily allowances. The researchers found that these sweeteners caused changes in both the function and composition of the participants’ gut microbiomes, the communities of bacteria, viruses, and fungi that live in the intestines, The Post reported.

There’s no question that artificial sweeteners are hard to avoid these days. And we keep trying to have our sugar without paying the price.

But for the sake of your long-term health, we recommend sticking as closely as possible to fresh, natural, unprocessed foods and beverages.

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