Salt and stroke: what is the connection?
Nitin K Sethi, MD
I recently read an editorial written by Norman Campbell and David Spence on “Stroke prevention and sodium restriction” in the Canadian Journal of Neurological Sciences in which they talk about the effect of dietary sodium restriction on the incidence of stroke. As we all know stroke prevention is a much more cost effective strategy as compared to treatment of acute stroke. Unfortunately more attention is being paid to treatment and management issues surrounding acute stroke and precious little to the prevention of stroke. I strongly feel that for every 1 lecture which a neurologist gives about treatment of acute stroke, he should give 10 lectures about the prevention of stroke.
Restriction of dietary sodium or rather salt in the diet is one such cost-effective strategy to prevent strokes. Increased salt in the diet raises the blood pressure and blood pressure is the number one risk factor for strokes. The authors make a strong point for government legislation to cut down the amount of salt added to processed foods or that eaten in restaurants. As they rightly say advise to patients to reduce salt intake is by itself relatively ineffective because sodium (salt) sources are ubiquitous and not apparent to the consumer. You may not add any salt to your diet when you cook at home but salt is added to nearly every food item at the time of processing. It is only by government legislation and action that salt content of food items can be lowered. Low salt content shall help in lowering blood pressures and thus prevent cardiovascular and cerebrovascular events (heart attacks and brain attacks!!!)
So watch the salt in your diet everyone. Remember a stroke prevented is a brain saved!!!