|Despite history, a brand new review of several studies from the past few decades related to blood pressure and salt intake suggests Kempner wasn’t right—that salt might not have as much of an effect on blood pressure and heart health as suspected.|
Some expert makes a mistake, so what? The comedy comes when all the ignoramuses follow the mistake to god only knows what damage, human experience bumping around in the dark like an amoeba.
All my life I’ve heard that salt is bad. The people telling me have no competence let alone interest in understanding my response: too much salt may kill, slowly; too little salt can kill over-night!
What would happen to the world if people became liable for advice they try to impose? The US used to hand out cigarettes, told soldiers it would make them brave, that the cigarettes, like girls in the parade, were a reward for their sacrifice. Where’s that US now? Telling us not to smoke, finding Big Tobacco liable. How did Big Tobacco become big? US subsidized tobacco!
When I was a kid football coaches were liberal in handing out salt tablets, but then doctors and Aunt Meg and the neighbors were all telling everyone to reduce salt, salt was killing them.
Meantime, one morning at cub scout camp, I wake up paralyzed. It’s reveille, we’re being told to get up, I can’t move. Roger, the kid who always hated me even though we were in the same group of friends, kicked me and my bed out the side of the tent, off the platform of a floor. I landed with the small of my back hinged by a tree stump. When the kids saw me impaled there, unmoving, no visible reaction whatever, they panicked, clamored for adults. I was rushed to the camp “hospital” where a couple of interns measured my fever at 106+o, elicited no reflexes from me. The interns panicked, they were about to have a dead kid on their hands, they saw their careers, imagined as pleasant, privileged, lucrative, going up in a smoke of shame and ignominy.
I was rushed by ambulance to Meadowbrook Hospital. My mother was roused out of work in Manhattan, brought her friend, a resident at Brooklyn Hospital after a stint as a doctor in the navy. The doctors at Meadowbrook were as bewildered as the poor cub camp interns. They packed me in ice, still my fever raged over 106o. My brain had to be cooking.
I remember my Mother’s friend, Don, smirking while the Meadowbrook staff had its incompetence exposed. After every opinion had been exposed as ignorance as bleached-as-a-beach, Don said, “Give him a salt tablet.”
This was done. Again they took my temperature. 102o. They gave me another salt tablet. 101o.
My mother was instructed to keep me in bed at home and to fill me full of salt-laced tomato juice. Over the next couple of days she must have put a whole cylinder of salt into me. My reflexes returned, my temperature dropped to normal within a week.
Without the salt that may be giving me high blood pressure at 74, I’d have been a brain dead, cooked corpse at age eleven.
Which Woody Allen movie is that? Sleeper! The Woody nerd wakes up in some ridiculous Gernsbach future where the doctors opine the reverse of all conventional wisdom. What great work that son-of-a-bitch has done.
As a little kid I’d visited my grandmother. Mother’s mother was married to some old geezer, John. At table John had his own restaurant-size salt shaker by his plate. The rest of the company shared the tiny little ordinary salt shaker. John would cover his meat and potatoes with salt until the food had disappeared. Later I was told that he had done that all his life. At eighteen he was told to give up salt, if he didn’t give up salt he wouldn’t live six months. Here he was, eighty-some-odd years old, salting his food till all you saw was salt in the shape of food.
Don explained that one too. He called my condition, temporary condition, fixed by his advice to the hospital, as “salt depletion.” What? did you think it was going to be in Latin? John’s condition he did label in Latin, Latin I didn’t get at the time and don’t remember now. Very rare, said Don: “but the salt was the only thing keeping him alive.”
I could never stand Don, but at least I had exposure, young, to a doctor, who held the common wisdom of his profession in contempt. Me too.
I use myself as an example, above (and typically): handy, true, but watch out, I’m not normal in more than one way. My intelligence isn’t normal, my genius isn’t normal, but just take blood pressure: my blood pressure isn’t normal. My first internist to examine my blood system, twenty-odd years ago, was not only astounded by my readings, but by lack of damage my sky-rocketed blood pressure had yet caused. Every ordinary medical assistant takes my blood pressure and nearly has a stroke herself, never seen such numbers. But: they’re not scientists: very few of the doctors have a clue what science is: it doesn’t matter how many courses they’ve passed with that label, they’ve still never encountered the phenomenon of science: experience processed by intelligence, honestly, not by prescription: the priest will see the ghost he expects, the scientist will see something more toward what registered on his retina and stimulates the visual cortex: the scientist will be less impressionable, more open to alternate interpretatioms; but the medical assistants and the bulk of the doctors and nurses are “priests”; not scientists.
So, the ordinary assistant is cnovinced I’m going to have a stroke right in front of them; Dr. Butcher thought, Hmm, Odd, his numbers are crazy, but his body seems fine.
So: Could my body kill me? Five seconds from now? Sure; but I don’t expect it to. It hasn’t so far. The stats that predict phenomena for others don’t apply to me in the same way.
It’s more probable that my name is “Smith” than that my name is Knatz. So, if you have to guess what my name probably is, guess Smith. But you don’t have to guess, the knowledge is available. And it isn’t Smith; it’s Knatz! So, if you have to guess the state of my health from a comparison between my body and my blood pressure, I’m probably on the verge of a stroke. The scientist can distinguish between the probable and the actual; the “priest” can not: the priest wants his prediction to be fact.
Well it is fact in the sense that he predicts it, but the prediction is wrong: so far. Maybe become right in five seconds, but I don’t bother to hold my breath, I go right on functioning, not worrying.
Sure I do what I can to normalize my blood pressure, I don’t see that it can hurt, but I don’t rely on it as magic.
The doctor in question was Don Nielson, my mother’s friend, suitor … I should make a post just for stories about him: Doctor Don Stories.