A large percentage of Canadians experience some degree of hypertension, usually called high blood pressure (BP). There is no question that high BP levels can precipitate stroke, heart attack, or both. But there’s help.
The latest research indicates four minerals moderate hypertension, three good and one harmful. It’s no surprise the bad mineral is sodium — like good old-fashioned table salt.
A moderately accurate reading of labels quickly shows that virtually every can of prepared food—vegetables, crackers, soup, and so forth—is loaded with sodium. This adds to the body’s burden of sodium from foods that are naturally high in sodium, like carrots and celery. Lowering our sodium intake is almost always beneficial and requires a certain amount of attention and discipline, but it is possible. A simple first step is to use coarse salt in saltshakers with tiny openings. This gives people the feeling of adding (usually unnecessarily) salt without adding much.
The minerals that benefit BP levels are calcium, magnesium, and potassium. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommends we get these in sufficient amounts. In addition to moderating BP, proper calcium intake preserves bones and prevents osteoporosis. Magnesium helps regulate the heart and assists the body in maintaining its general balance, including BP. Potassium is essential for many body functions, and may help regulate BP.
Fortunately, these minerals are available in nutritional supplements, which can benefit the body greatly. The usual dosage for each is:
- Calcium (elemental): 1 gram, or 1000 mg.
- Magnesium (elemental): 0.5 gram
- Potassium: 3 grams
Although BP is an important marker for heart problems, it is not the only one. We must also remember:
Being overweight puts a strain on all aspects of the body, including the heart. It is critical to try to maintain proper weight.
Depending on many factors, almost every individual can have an exercise program that will help maintain the strength of the heart as well as the rest of the body. Some people can design their own exercise program; others may require the help of a professional therapist.
High levels of a negative amino acid called homocysteine are considered a marker that may indicate that heart problems are on the way. This amino acid can be moderated by the use of three nutrients: folic acid, vitamin B12, and vitamin B6. Proper levels of cholesterol, both of the “good” type (HDL) and the “bad” type (LDL) are also important markers for cardiac health. Yet another factor that is now increasingly being considered is the inflammatory substance called C-reactive protein (CRP).