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Ask Dr. Nan.

Q: My blood pressure is low normal. Is there any reason why I should limit my salt intake? I prefer salty and savory foods to sweets.--R.T., e-mail

A: Yes, we should all limit our sodium intake. A high-sodium diet that's low in potassium can lead to heart disease. This would be a diet with a lot of processed foods that's low in fruits and vegetables. Thanks to fast foods and processed foods, we're eating more sodium than ever before. And too much of anything can cause problems. High sodium intake is no exception. It not only can lead to heart disease, it's also a risk factor for kidney stones and osteoporosis. That's what Canadian researchers at the University of Alberta recently found.

They discovered that when sodium intake gets too high, your body excretes excess amounts in the urine. That's the good news. The bad news is that these high amounts of calcium in the urine also contribute to kidney stones. Another problem with a high-salt diet is that sodium binds to calcium and removes some of it, as well. This can lead to osteoporosis.

There's a direct link between sodium and calcium absorption as well as a direct link between sodium and high blood pressure. So keep your salt intake low by choosing foods low in sodium or by eating smaller portions.

Q: I have dry eyes. My eye doctor says this can be dangerous and I need to use artificial tears. Is it really dangerous? And is there anything I can do besides putting drops in my eyes?--G.G., e-mail

A: Heat, air conditioning, antihistamines, contact lenses, and aging are just a few things that can reduce the flow of tears and cause dry eyes. Tears lubricate the eyes. Without an adequate supply of moisture, you can have pain, a sensitivity to light, redness, and blurred vision. In advanced chronic cases, it can damage your eyes and cause permanent vision problems.

Artificial tears are the primary treatment for dry eyes. If yours is a chronic condition, it's important to use them as directed--even when you don't think you need them. Sometimes, ophthalmologists recommend prescription eye drops for dry eyes like Restasis to help the body produce tears naturally.

But there is another treatment you may want to try that has a similar action: caffeine. Caffeine increases secretions of saliva and digestive juices. So a group of researchers at the University of Tokyo's School of Medicine decided to see whether or not it could reverse dry eyes. They gave 78 people with dry eyes caffeine tablets. All of them produced significantly more tears than after taking a placebo.

You might drink coffee, green tea, black tea, or mate as your source of caffeine and see if they alleviate your dry eyes. We're finding more benefits for caffeine than problems. If your health practitioner gives you the go ahead, try drinking a cup of a caffeinated drink a few times a day. You may not need eye drops--either over-the-counter or prescription.

American Academy of Ophthalmology. "Millions Of Dry Eye Sufferers May Benefit From Caffeine." Medical News Today, MediLexicon, Intl., 18 April 2012.

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Title Annotation:dietary sodium and blood pressure; treatment for dry eyes
Publication:Women's Health Letter
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2012
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