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Cut Salt, Save 500,000 U.S. Lives Over a Decade, Study Finds

Reducing salt in Americans’ diets would save hundreds of thousands of lives over 10 years, according to a new study.

 

Excess salt, the primary source of sodium, contributes to high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease, the leading killer in the United States.

 

Immediately reducing people’s salt consumption from current levels to the upper limit of the U.S. government guideline — 2,300 milligrams a day — would save 500,000 to 850,000 lives over the next decade, largely by reducing heart attacks and strokes, the study found.

 

Gradually reducing sodium levels in processed or restaurant foods by 4 percent a year for 10 years would still save 280,000 to 500,000 lives over a decade, the researchers concluded.

 

The average American consumes about 3,500 mg per day, and men tend to ingest much more than that, according to the study, which was published Feb. 11 in the journal Hypertension.

 

“No matter how we look at it, the story is the same — there will be huge benefits in reducing sodium,” study lead author Pam Coxson, a mathematician at the University of California, San Francisco, said in a university news release.

 

For the study, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention brought together three groups of scientists who used different computer models to estimate how lowering salt intake would save lives.

 

All the models showed consistent, substantial benefits if current sodium intake were reduced to a level close to the upper limit of the federal guidelines.

 

Many people believe that taking the salt shaker off the dinner table will reduce their sodium consumption to a healthy level, but 80 percent of the sodium consumed by Americans comes from processed foods, Coxson noted.

 

Bread and other cereals account for about one-third of daily sodium intake. Other types of processed foods that have high sodium levels include canned soup and processed meats. Even fresh chicken is sometimes injected with salt solutions before packaging. Restaurant meals are also high in sodium.

 

In commercial settings, salt is primarily added for flavor and sometimes to preserve foods.

 

More information

 

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute outlines how you can reduce salt in your diet.

 

– Robert Preidt

 

SOURCE: University of California, San Francisco, news release, Feb. 11, 2013

 

Health News Copyright © 2013 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

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Insider Secrets: Do You Think Like an Athlete?

What does it mean to “think like an athlete”?

For me, thinking like an athlete is about being focused on your goals.  As well as being a former professional sprinter, I’m from a family of athletes, and I married an athlete, so I know a little something about what makes athletes tick.

Athletes think differently. By focusing on the end result, I think athletes are better able to prioritize and we really can apply that focus in every part of our lives. Whether we’re preparing for a training session, thinking about food and how to refuel our bodies, or planning a fun and relaxing outing, we’re thinking about what we want to achieve.

I think this approach can be helpful for everyone, in all walks of life.  Try thinking about what you want to achieve and you may be able to think past all the other chatter that your brain is always throwing at you.

For instance, when you’re heading to the gym are you already thinking about what you’ll be doing later?  Is the gym something you want to get over and done with?  Perhaps you’re even one of the many who dread going to the gym and try any number of avoidance tactics?

I understand.   Believe me, there are days when I’ve wanted to skip the gym, curl up on the sofa and eat cookies.  Nowadays, when that happens I make a promise to myself ­ if I still want to do that after I’ve worked out then I’ll let myself.  The thing is, in the back of my brain, I know that I won’t want to.

By deciding to think like an athlete, I can make a work out more fun and less of a drain.  Rather than counting the minutes until I can stop, I think about how my body is improving with each thing I do.  I think about the positives: how I look, how I feel and how much happier I am when I’m active.

It’s the same with meal times.  As an athlete I think about my long-term goals rather than focusing on short-term treats.  While I believe in rewards and know we can’t all be virtuous all the time, I also know that if I want to feel good then I need to eat healthy, balanced meals.

For an athlete the end goal is always the primary focus.

This way of thinking has worked for me at every stage of my life and I’ve never looked back.  I continue to think like an athlete even though my competitive days are behind me. I feel that having a plan and a definite direction keeps me positively moving toward self-improvement.

Try thinking like an athlete in every part of your life for just one week and see what a difference it can make.

Written by Samantha Clayton.  Samantha is a paid consultant to Herbalife.

Be Happier: 4 Life-Changing Reasons to Get Active

There are literally hundreds of reasons why being active is beneficial.  Exercise is good for your body, your mind and for your social life.

Here are four reasons that I believe will inspire you to get up and get healthy. Once you’ve read through, I know you’ll join me and become a happier, healthier you.

1.  Reduced stress

Most of our lives are filled with stress of some sort, whether it’s lack of time, financial struggles, difficult work deadlines or simply trying to herd your children to school.

Stress can lead to weight gain and make losing weight more difficult, so finding time for activity has never been so important.

Stress also often causes over-eating and this can lead to weight gain, in turn this can increase your stress and then the cycle repeats.

Even I have succumbed to stress and hidden out in my pantry (where I keep the cookies!) during times of high pressure.  Knowing that this wasn’t the best reaction, I took time out and realized that I needed to do something that would help me cope with the stresses of my life.  I found that adding an activity to my day allowed me to re-group and focus on myself and this helped me to reduce anxiety and stress.

2. Feel more productive in work and life

I always used to think that in school we had recess to give the teacher five minutes of peace but the real reason is much more interesting. Studies have found that after activity our brains are more active and this makes it easier for us to learn and retain information. (I’ve tested this philosophy on my own children and it definitely works for them.)

You may not be in school any more, but taking a brief recess for activity, especially when you feel drained, may improve your focus and make you more productive. Feeling that you’re more productive is a great way to beat stress!

3. Positive lifestyle attracts positive people

When you make a conscious effort to improve yourself through becoming more active, your confidence gets a boost.  Even better, your new positive approach can convince those around you to also make a positive change.  This is especially true if you decide to take a class or join a fit club.

Who knew that by improving yourself you¹d have the potential to improve others too?

4. Increase your happiness

Who doesn’t want to be happier? Being active promotes the release of endorphins in your body similar to those that are released when we eat foods such as chocolate.  I’d much rather get my happy endorphins from activity because it¹s long lasting.  When you eat unbalanced sugary delights, your happy vibe is short lived and is quickly followed by a not-so-happy energy drop.

What goes up must come down and if you constantly spike your blood sugar in this way, you¹ll find it hard to balance your mood. Instead, try involving yourself in a healthy activity as this may make you happier because you¹ll have more energy and your mood will be stable.

***

Activity really is good for everyone.  Think of these four life-changing benefits of exercise as routes to happiness. Less stress makes you happier, being alert and more productive makes you happier and happy people attract positive happy people.

Happily, I think that promoting an active lifestyle will eventually make the world happier, healthier place.

Written by Samantha Clayton.  Samantha is a paid consultant to Herbalife.

Taming a Sweet Tooth -­ What’s The Best Approach?

My husband has a ferocious sweet tooth.  If he had his way, he’d start his day with a cookie and end it with a bowl of ice cream.  People who know this about him think this is just hilarious – given that he’s married to a dietitian.  They love to tease him -  as in,  “I’ll bet she keeps you on a tight leash”, but that just isn’t my style. It isn’t up to me to tame his sweet tooth – all I can do is to try to control how much (and what) is available in the house.  The rest is up to him.

When I talk to clients, the issue of how to handle sweets in the diet comes up all the time.  Since every situation is different, each household may have to figure this out for themselves. Some people never keep sweets in the house – but for many, that just makes them “forbidden fruit”, and all the more desirable.  Others use sweets only as tools for reward or punishment – a practice that often extends way back to childhood.

Then there are those who try to make the issue less emotionally charged – sort of “neutralizing” sweets. I have a friend like this.  He serves dessert to his kids once in a while – but he’ll set it on the table right along with the grilled chicken, the green beans and the salad.  His reasoning – and there is some logic to this – is that if sweets are just ‘part of the meal’, they’d lose their significance as a reward or a treat.

It’s a thorny issue, to be sure, so here are some things worth considering.

Try not to use sweets as a reward or withhold them as a punishment

Whether you do this to yourself or with family members this is a tactic best avoided. Many of my overweight clients remember, as kids, being given bags of mini-cookies to ‘keep them quiet’, or having sweets taken away if they behaved badly.  Not surprising that they grow up to have a love-hate relationship with sweets, which are now the most emotionally-charged foods in their diet. As adults, they now turn to sweets for comfort – but they’re also wracked with guilt whenever they eat them.

You might find that keeping sweets out of the house entirely can work

Many parents take this approach with their kids but it’s important to remember that kids will still be exposed to sweets, will still ask for them, and – despite their best efforts – will probably figure out a way to get them one way or another.  Oh, and this doesn’t just apply just to kids, by the way…last week while doing laundry – and this has happened more than once – I pulled a few candy wrappers from the pockets of my husband’s cargo shorts.

Try a more neutral approach to sweets instead

What often works best is a middle-of-the-road approach in which sensible sweets are kept around – like low fat cookies, pudding cups or frozen yogurt.  Since nothing is off-limits, it sort of takes the pressure off.  The sweets are there if you want them, so you might actually think about them less.  Sometimes when there’s nothing around, you end up craving sweets even more.

You could try serving the occasional dessert along with a meal – like my friend does.  I think his heart is in the right place, and it seems to be working for his family.  I’m just waiting for the day when he takes his kids to a restaurant and they order their salad, their spaghetti and their chocolate cake… and ask that they all be served at the same time!

Written by Susan Bowerman.  Susan is a paid consultant to Herbalife.

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