Salt: Hemorrhagic Stroke Risk

Risk of “bleeding” stroke a concern for vegans and others! High-salt consumption may be potentially more dangerous for vegans, vegetarians, and others who have earned low cholesterol levels by eating otherwise healthful diets. Just as we know that high cholesterol levels are associated with increased risk of coronary heart disease, low cholesterol levels are associated with increased risk of hemorrhagic stroke.
  • Small arteries vulnerable: Some studies have suggested that low serum cholesterol could enhance the vulnerability of small intraparenchymal cerebral arteries and lead to the development of stroke in the presence of hypertension.1 The plaque-building process that results in atherosclerosis and premature death may in some way protect the fragile blood vessels in the brain from rupture due to high blood pressure.A high-salt diet may dramatically increase the risk of hemorrhagic stroke in vegans because they can live longer than the general population and not to die from a heart attack first. To protect against heart attacks, ischemic strokes, and hemorrhagic (bleeding) strokes, you must dramatically curtail salt consumption.
  • Additional problems: As previously mentioned, cardiovascular diseases are not the only problems associated with salt consumption. Salt increases the body’s excretion of calcium. This could lead to loss of bone mass and osteoporosis.2 Diets high in salt appear to cause higher rates of infection with Helicobacter pylori, the bacterium that causes stomach ulcers, and salt has been shown to be associated with higher rates of stomach cancer.3 Salt also has been shown in numerous studies to be associated with asthma, and salt reduction can improve breathing.4 Some of these studies seem to indicate that salt has a stronger negative impact on the lungs of boys.5
  • The forgotten killer: There is good reason to refer to salt as “The Forgotten Killer.”6 Although it is easy to get distracted with the other diet-related topics that dominate the headlines, high sodium levels can be deadly. Eating a healthful, plant-based diet composed of unprocessed, unsalted whole foods is the best weapon we have.
1. Yano K, Reed D, MacLean C. “Serum Cholesterol and Hemorrhagic Stroke in the Honolulu Heart Program.” Stroke 1989;20(11): 1460-1465.

2. Heaney R. “Role of Dietary Sodium in Osteoporosis.” J Am Coll Nutr 2006;25(3):271S- 276S.

3. Tsugane S, Sasazuki S. “Diet and the risk of gastric cancer.” Gastric Cancer 2007;10(2): 75 83. Joossens JV, Hill MJ, Elliot P, et al. “Dietary salt, nitrate and stomach cancer mortality in 24 countries. European Cancer Prevention (ECP) and the INTERSALT Cooperative Research Group.” Int J Epidmiol 1996;25(3):494-504.

4. Burney P. “A diet rich in sodium may potentiate asthma. Epidemiologic evidence for a new hypothesis.” Chest 1987;91(2 Suppl):143s-148s. Tribe RM, Barton JR, Poston L, Burney PG. “Dietary sodium intake, airway responsiveness, and cellular transport.” Am J Respir Crit Care Med 1994;149:1426-1433.

5. Pistelli R, Forastiere F, Corbo GM, et al. “Respiratory symptoms and bronchial responsiveness are related to dietary salt intake and urinary potassium excretion in male children.” Eur Respir J 1993;6:517-522. Demissie K, Ernst P, Gray DK, Joseph L. “Usual dietary salt intake and asthma in children: a case-control study.” Thorax 1996: 51:59-63.

6. Jacobson M. Salt: The Forgotton Killer. Center for Science in the Public Interest: Washington DC; 2005.
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