KRON 4 | Salt Affects More Than Blood Pressure

VIDEO: You may think you’re one of the lucky ones who can eat unlimited bags of chips and other troves of salt; and yet, it doesn’t affect your blood pressure. But according to research published in the American College of Cardiology, excess sodium can adversely affect other target organs even if you don’t have hypertension.

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Blood Vessels

Studies show elevated sodium levels can cause the inner lining of blood vessels (called the endothelium) to “malfunction”. The following occurs as a result:

  1. Vessels stiffen. Arteries that become less elastic and lose their contractility (ability to fully contract and relax) make it harder for the heart to pump blood throughout the body. Eventually, the heart wears out (heart failure).
  2. Vessels become sticky. Think of the lining of your blood vessels as being slick like Teflon. An unhealthy endothelium is sticky like Velcro and causes plaque to attach. Plaque builds up in the brain too — leading to Alzheimer’s.
  3. The body breeds dangerous inflammation. Inflammation may cause plaque inside blood vessels to crack, rupture, and dislodge from arterial walls. The body responds like with any other injury by causing blood to clot. Clots clog up vessel freeways and block blood flow to the heart (heart attack) or brain (stroke). Inflammation is also the key reason behind why heart attacks are more likely to occur after getting the flu.

NOTE: Eating too much sugar can have the same effect on the endothelium as an excessive intake of sodium.

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Research found that elevated sodium levels may increase the wall thickness of the heart’s main pumping chamber (left ventricle). This thickening can lead to cardiac issues, such as:

  • Arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm)
  • Heart attack
  • Sudden cardiac arrest (sudden loss of heart function)
  • Heart failure (inability of the heart to pump enough blood throughout the body)

High blood pressure is a major risk factor for this muscle tissue enlargement, but it was also found in healthy people with NORMAL blood pressure who consumed high amounts of sodium.


Healthy kidneys remove extra fluid and waste from the blood. Studies found that a high Continue reading “KRON 4 | Salt Affects More Than Blood Pressure”

Heart Attack! First Aid Quiz

If you’re experiencing “chest pressure” or “chest pain”, aspirin is the BEST form of first aid. But all aspirins are not alike nor are all methods of taking aspirin alike. Take the lifesaving quiz below…

Why Aspirin

A heart attack, or myocardial infarction (MI), is permanent damage to the heart muscle. Most heart attacks develop when a cholesterol-laden plaque in a coronary artery ruptures. Plaque deposits are hard on the outside and when this outer shell ruptures (cracks), platelets rush to the area in an effort to ‘patch’ the ruptured area.

Platelets are disc-shaped particles in the blood that aid in clotting. A clot grows minute by minute! As a clot grows, it blocks an artery. When the artery is completely blocked, cardiac tissue dies from the lack of blood supply and you have a heart attack. But aspirin can help stop the platelets from forming a larger clot if you take the aspirin BEFORE the clot gets too big. Time is critical! Aspirin helps inhibit platelet activity.


QUIZ (3 questions):

1. Pick the METHOD that you think makes aspirin work the fastest*. That is, during a suspected heart attack, which of the following is the fastest way to reduce blood clot formation?

A. Swallow the aspirin with 4 oz. of water.
B. Chew the aspirin for 30 seconds, then swallow it.
C. Swallow the aspirin with 4 oz. Alka Seltzer.    Continue reading “Heart Attack! First Aid Quiz”

How to Dodge This Deadly Bullet (Sudden Cardiac Death)

Healthy Life Green Road Sign Did you know… that sudden cardiac death is usually the first symptom of coronary heart disease (CHD) — especially among women?

Compared to men, studies show that women are 66% less likely to be diagnosed with coronary heart disease before sudden cardiac death strikes. If you’re a woman and free of symptoms, you’re not identified as “high risk” which means you’re not eligible for cardiac interventions that could save your life. SCD accounts for more than 50% of cardiac deaths (approximately 250,000 to 310,000 cases annually in the United States).

Heart Attack vs. Sudden Cardiac Death

To clarify, the terms “heart attack” and “sudden cardiac death” are NOT the same thing.

  • A heart attack or myocardial infarction (MI) occurs when the flow of oxygen-rich blood suddenly gets blocked. Oxygen can’t get to a section of the heart and cardiac tissue dies. Most often the heart is blocked by a build-up of fatty plaque.
  • Sudden cardiac death (SCD) is an abrupt loss of heart function as a result of abnormal electrical impulses within the heart. The heart’s electrical system may fail from physical stress, inherited arrhythmias, drug/alcohol abuse, chronic kidney disease, structural changes in the heart, and/or scar tissue that damages the heart’s electrical system. (Cardiac deaths were considered “sudden” if the death or cardiac arrest occurred within 1 hour of the onset of symptoms.)

Simply put, SCD is considered an ‘electrical’ problem whereas a heart attack is more of a ‘plumbing’ problem. Over the years, I’ve had several patients that were revived and survived sudden cardiac arrest who said they didn’t need cardiac rehab because they didn’t have a heart attack, but had an “electrical issue”. They couldn’t be more wrong.

SCD Risk Can Be Prevented   

The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published a 26-year study of nearly 82,000 women that showed you can reduce your risk for sudden cardiac death. In the majority of people, coronary heart disease is usually the underlying cause of SCD and this study showed that a low-risk, healthy lifestyle is associated with a low risk of sudden cardiac death.    Continue reading “How to Dodge This Deadly Bullet (Sudden Cardiac Death)”

Be Aware If You Passed Your Treadmill Stress Test

Having his heart's functions checked

When I first started working in cardiac rehabilitation as a new college grad, one of my Phase 3 cardiac rehab patients had a heart attack when he was only 35 years old. If that wasn’t unsettling enough, he had his heart attack the DAY AFTER he “passed” his treadmill test. Back then, I couldn’t understand how that could possibly happen, but I now know better.

How Sensitive Is Your Treadmill Test?

Here’s what you need to know. Currently, the exercise ECG is the most cost-effective first-line screening tool, but its accuracy relies on the ‘sensitivity’ of the test. Sensitivity refers to the percentage of cases in which exercise testing accurately identifies the presence of coronary artery disease (CAD). Unfortunately, the exercise ECG it is not 100% sensitive to detecting coronary artery disease. 

Per the American College of Sports Medicine, the current sensitivity for detecting CAD using the exercise stress test is only about 70%.  In other words, if you test 100 cardiac rehab patients with documented coronary artery disease, only 70 patients would show evidence of CAD per the stress ECG test. If you’re one of the 30 remaining patients, where does that leave you?

False Negatives

Well, don’t start your celebratory dance (or meal) just yet. It just means that you may fall in either of the following groups:

  1. You have a negative stress test. That is, you actually “passed” and show no signs of coronary artery disease.
  2. You have a false-negative finding. This means you’ve been given a negative stress test result (normal) where no CAD ‘appears’ to be present, but you actually have CAD.

The bottom line… a negative exercise ECG test is no guarantee that you do NOT have coronary artery disease (CAD) even if your cardiologist tells you, “Everything looks great! See you in a year.” So sorry to burst your bubble, but that’s the reality. Cardiac events that occur after a negative stress test happen all too often, but it’s not so perplexing to me anymore.

Causes of False-Negatives (Lower Sensitivity)

Stress test results are only as valuable as your performance, the technician’s monitoring, and the test interpretation. Here are some factors that may increase your chances of a false-negative finding:    Continue reading “Be Aware If You Passed Your Treadmill Stress Test”

Weight Train After Your Heart Attack and Live Longer

Man has heart attack

After your heart attack or some other “cardiac event”, such as a coronary artery bypass graft and/or stent placement, you may have received conflicting advice as to what level of activity is acceptable. Some of the things you may have heard are:

  • Don’t lift anything over 5 lbs.
  • Don’t lift anything over 10 lbs. “for a while”.
  • Don’t lift anything for a week.
  • Don’t drive more than 30 minutes.
  • Don’t “get exhausted” for a month.
  • Don’t exercise for a few weeks.
  • Don’t lift over 5 lbs. for a period of time — or ever.
  • Go back to whatever you were doing before.

These guidelines can be confusing and promote anxiety and inactivity. Physicians generally prescribe aerobic/endurance exercise, such as walking, to strengthen your cardiorespiratory system, but in order to return to activities of daily living (ADLs), resistance training is necessary to accomplish everyday tasks, such as:

  • Mowing the lawn
  • Vacuuming
  • Carrying your children, groceries, or suitcase
  • Loading and unloading the trunk of a car/truck
  • Bending over to pick up the newspaper or toys off the floor
  • Lifting your grandchildren
  • Placing or removing items from a high shelf
  • Closing the trunk of a car or van
  • Opening a heavy door (e.g., door of a car, building, refrigerator, freezer, or dishwasher)

Resistance training enables you to perform these daily tasks safely, independently and more efficiently. By having a stronger musculoskeletal system, you decrease the cardiac demands of daily activities and increase your endurance capacity for other activities. Strength training has also been shown to maintain and build stronger bones as well as slow or prevent bone loss. A strong structure will reduce your risk for developing other debilitating diseases (e.g., osteoporosis) and ultimately help you live a longer, stronger and happier life.

Grandparents And Grandson Playing Game Indoors TogetherMuscular strength and endurance are important to prevent falls and safely return to vocational and recreational activities as well as activities of daily living. Most people need to do some type of lifting, carrying, or pushing in their daily routine. Your body has nine (9) fundamental human movement patterns. The foundation of your workouts should develop these movements:    Continue reading “Weight Train After Your Heart Attack and Live Longer”