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High Blood Pressure Isn't The Only Headache Culprit

In the past there have been several scientific studies that show high blood pressure to be a leading cause of headaches in North America and across the globe, but new information has shown that a high salt diet might also be to blame. This is not surprising as the number of processed foods with growing levels of sodium can be spotted on every grocery store shelf, and with less time to cook and a much larger appetite than ever before, the world is eating up these sugary and salty meals without thinking twice about the repercussions. Of course, obesity has reared its ugly head, and that is one serious side effect to a poor diet, but apparently, recent medical news supports the idea that salt and sugar can also cause you to get a bad headache.

Focusing On The Facts

This latest scientific study was founded by Dr. Lawrence Appel, who works for the Welch Center for Prevention, as well as for the Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore in the Epidemiology and Clinical Research Department. Dr. Appel has suggested that the headache is one of the most highly recognized and common medical issues found globally, and that it is usually related to a disorder of the nervous system. Facts show that forty-six percent of adults have a headache disorder with chronic pain that leads to high levels of missed work and a poor quality of life. Medical News Today writes: “Dr. Appel and his colleagues say that current data support a link between blood pressure and headache; however, evidence on the link between headaches and sodium intake or other dietary factors is sparse, with most research focusing on the role of monosodium glutamate (MSG) consumption.”

The link between both is fairly clear, but with the numbers for sodium intake in the United States alone, it is easy to see how the large numbers of chronic headaches could be related. The American Heart Association, also known as the AHA, has reported that in the United States, people consume roughly three thousand and four hundred milligrams of sodium each day. This is more than double the amount of daily sodium intake that is recommended by doctors and nutritionists.

Setting Up The Study

In order to better recognize how the sodium was affecting people and their headaches, the research team selected 390 subjects to participate in a special diet, rich in fruits, vegetables, and dairy that is low in fat, or to stick to a regular “American” diet, so that they could see what, if any, differences took place. This occurred over a month, during which each member of the research team ate a high sodium diet at one feeding period, and a low sodium one the next, then a survey was completed. Many Blessings explains: “When we eat diets that are too high in sodium, which is incredibly easy in modern society, the bloodstream contains more sodium ions and thus more water is attracted to the bloodstream. This same water leaves the cells, causing the cells to become somewhat dehydrated. When the cells in the brain become dehydrated, we call this a headache.”

This test would help support the team’s theory on the possibility of salt doing more than just causing dehydration, which is a well-documented reason for the occurrence of a headache. Instead, they wanted to represent the other reasoning behind the reaction of salt and head pain.

What They Found

The results that they found weren’t surprising; those subjects who ate high sodium were found to have 33% more headaches than those who ate diets with lower sodium levels. This was judged with 8 grams of sodium being high and 4 grams being low or reasonable. They also found that there was no difference in these results based on a “normal” American diet, or the DASH diet with fruits, vegetables, and dairy. Although the findings weren’t a surprise to the team, they may be a shock to other members of the scientific community where it has been believed for quite some time that this DASH style diets high in fruit and veg and low in fat could prevent headaches. As it turns out, it isn’t the style of diet at all that alters this pain, but the levels of sodium that are present.

What Your Level Of Sodium Means For You

In most cases the levels of sodium being ingested by the American population is far beyond what is necessary and recommended, and most adults in the United States are eating more than they need. The Daily Mail reports: “Professor Graham MacGregor, of Queen Mary University, London and World Action on Salt and Health (WASH) - who was not involved in the study - said scientists do not fully understand why cutting salt reduces headaches, but they suspect it is because it lowers blood and pulse pressure.”

This study is not the first, or the last to wonder at the connection of salt and headaches, but it is among a few recent ones that have popped up to provide proof that cutting back on your sodium intake could be a wise move.

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