Shake It Up

Is salt so bad for the heart?


A study published in January in the online edition of JAMA Internal Medicine shows that salt intake was not associated with mortality or risk for cardiovascular disease and heart failure in older adults based on self-reported estimated sodium intake.

Researchers from the School of Medicine, led by Andreas P. Kalogeropoulos, looked at the association between dietary sodium intake and mortality, cardiovascular disease, and heart failure in a group of 2,642 adults ranging in age from seventy-one to eighty years old. Approximately 51.2 percent of the participants were female and 38.3 percent were black.

Kalogeropoulos and his coauthors examined ten-year follow-up data from the older adults participating in a community-based study sponsored by the National Institutes of Health focused on the aging process. The participants’ dietary sodium intake was assessed at baseline with a questionnaire.

“There is ongoing debate on how low should we go when it comes to dietary sodium restriction recommendations, and not much data on restriction among older adults, especially those with their blood pressure on target,” says Kalogeropoulos, assistant professor of cardiology.

According to the study, achieving a sodium intake of less than 1,500 milligrams a day, as currently recommended for adults over fifty, can be difficult because of long-held dietary habits.

The scientists found that after ten years, 881 of the participants had died, 572 had developed cardiovascular disease, and 398 had suffered heart failure. Sodium intake was not associated with mortality or new development of these heart problems, according to study results.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, dietary sodium intake should be lower than 2,300 milligrams a day for the general population (approximately six grams or a teaspoon of salt) and under 1,500 milligrams a day for high-risk groups, including older adults. Kalogeropoulos says this remains the best approach until more data are available.

“Patients should not interpret our findings as a ‘license’ to consume more salt,” says Kalogeropoulos.

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