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  • Posted April 2, 2024

Most Folks With Heart Disease Consume Too Much Salt

Cutting back on sodium is crucial to treating heart disease, but most heart patients aren't able to limit their salt intake, a new study finds.

On average, people with heart disease consume more than double the daily recommended amount of salt, researchers report.

Sodium is essential for human health, but taking in too much can raise blood pressure, which damages blood vessels and forces the heart to work harder, researchers noted.

Too much salt also causes the body to retain fluid, which can exacerbate conditions like heart failure.

The U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend that heart disease patients limit sodium to 1,500 miilligrams (mg) per day, and that even healthy people keep their salt intake at less than 2,300 mg/day.

But among a sample of more than 3,100 heart patients, nine out of 10 (89%) reported consuming more than the recommended daily maximum of 1,500 mg/day, researchers said.

In fact, heart patients consumed an average 3,096 mg/day of salt, only slightly lower than the national average of 3,400 mg/day previously reported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the researchers noted.

“The relatively small difference in sodium intake suggests that people with cardiovascular disease are not limiting their intake very much compared with the general population and are also consuming more than double what is recommended,” said lead researcher Dr. Elsie Kodjoe, an internal medicine resident at Piedmont Athens Regional Hospital in Athens, Ga.

For this study, researchers analyzed dietary data from people diagnosed with heart problems who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 2009 and 2018.

Researchers said it can be tough for heart patients to estimate the amount of salt contained in supermarket goods or takeout meals.

“Adhering to a low-sodium diet remains challenging even for individuals with cardiovascular disease who have a strong incentive to adhere,” Kodjoe said.

“To make it easier for patients to adhere to dietary guidelines, we need to find more practical ways for the general public to estimate dietary sodium levels or perhaps consider a reduction in the sodium content of the food we consume right from the source,” Kodjoe added.

There didn't appear to be any significant differences in salt intake based on people's income, gender, race or education, researchers noted.

The study will be presented Sunday at the American College of Cardiology (ACC) annual meeting in Atlanta. Findings presented at medical meetings should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

People from all backgrounds can help protect their heart health by preparing more meals at home, where they can better control salt levels, researchers said.

Folks can also read food labels more closely, and limit their intake of foods with sodium levels higher than 140 milligrams.

“Cardiovascular disease is real, and it is the number one cause of morbidity and mortality [illness and death] worldwide according to the World Health Organization,” Kodjoe said in an ACC news release. “Adhering to sodium guidelines is one of the easier strategies individuals could readily adopt to reduce hospitalizations, health care costs, morbidity and mortality associated with cardiovascular disease.”

More information

The American Heart Association has more on sodium and heart health.

SOURCE: American College of Cardiology, news release, April 2, 2024

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