Recent Research Reveals a Simple Trick to Lower Heart Disease Risk

Sprinkle salt on the table concept

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is one of the leading causes of death and disability worldwide and is often preventable through lifestyle changes, such as maintaining a healthy diet and regular physical activity. One aspect of diet that has been linked to CVD risk is salt intake. Research has shown that reducing salt intake can help reduce the risk of CVD. However, it is important to consume salt in moderation as part of a healthy diet, as excessive salt intake can have negative health effects.

According to new research, a lower frequency of dietary salt intake is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD).

A new study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology has found that adding salt to food less frequently is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, heart failure, and ischemic heart disease. The study suggests that even among those following a DASH-style diet, interventions to reduce salt intake could improve heart health.

Previous research has shown that high levels of sodium in the diet can contribute to the development of high blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease. However, previous studies investigating this link produced conflicting results due to the lack of practical methods to assess long-term dietary sodium intake. Recent studies suggest that the frequency with which a person adds salt to their food can be used to predict their individual sodium intake over time.

“Overall, we found that people who don’t add a little extra salt to their food often have a much lower risk of heart disease events, regardless of lifestyle factors and pre-existing conditions,” said Lu Qi, MD, Ph. .D., HCA Regents Distinguished Chairman and Professor at the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine at Tulane University in New Orleans.

“We also found that when patients combined a DASH diet with a low frequency of salt addition, they had the lowest risk of heart disease. This is significant as cutting back on additional salt in foods, without eliminating salt entirely, is an incredibly modifiable risk factor that we can hopefully encourage our patients to do without much sacrifice.”

In the current study, the authors tested whether the frequency of adding salt to food was related to the risk of incident heart disease in 176,570 UK Biobank participants. The study also examined the association between the frequency of adding salt to food and the DASH diet in relation to heart disease risk.

The study used a questionnaire at baseline to collect data on the frequency of adding salt to food, not including salt used in cooking. Participants were also asked if they had made any major changes to their diet in the past 5 years, as well as whether they completed 1 to 5 rounds of 24-hour dietary recalls over a three-year period.

The DASH-style diet was developed to prevent high blood pressure by limiting consumption of red and processed meats and focusing on vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, nuts, and legumes.

While the DASH diet has provided benefits in terms of cardiovascular disease risk reduction, a recent clinical trial found that combining the DASH diet with sodium reduction was more beneficial for certain cardiac biomarkers, including cardiac injury, stress, and inflammation . The researchers calculated a modified DASH score that did not consider sodium intake based on seven foods and nutrients that were emphasized or de-emphasized in the DASH-style diet.

Data on CHD events were collected through clinical history and hospital admission data, questionnaires, and death registry data.

Overall, study participants less frequently adding salt to food were more likely to be women; white; have a lower body mass index; more likely to have a moderate alcohol intake; less likely to be current smokers; and more physically active. They also had a higher prevalence of high blood pressure and chronic kidney disease, but a lower prevalence of cancer.

These participants were also more likely to adhere to a DASH-style diet and consumed more fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes, whole grains, low-fat but less sugary diet drinks, or red/processed meats than those with a higher frequency. of adding salt to food.

The researchers found that the association of adding salt to food with heart disease risk was strongest in participants of lower socioeconomic status, as well as in current smokers. A higher modified DASH diet score was associated with a lower risk of heart disease events.

In a related editorial comment, Sara Ghoneim, MD, a gastroenterology fellow at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, wrote that the study is promising, builds on previous reports, and hints at the potential impact of long-term salt preferences on overall cardiovascular risk.

“A major limitation of the study is the self-reported frequency of adding salt to food and enrollment of participants from the UK only, which limits generalizability to other populations with different eating behaviours,” Ghoneim said.

“The findings of the present study are encouraging and are poised to expand our understanding of salt-related behavioral interventions in cardiovascular health.”

References: “Adding Salt to Food and Cardiovascular Disease Risk” by Hao Ma, MD, Ph.D., Xuan Wang, MD, Ph.D., Xiang Li, MD, Ph.D., Yoriko Heianza, RD, Ph..D. and Lu Qi, MD, Ph.D., Nov. 28, 2022, Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
DOI: 10.1016/j.jacc.2022.09.039

“Dietary Salt Intake Preferences and Cardiovascular Disease Risk” by Sara Ghoneim, MD, November 28, 2022, Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
DOI: 10.1016/j.jacc.2022.10.005

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