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High salt intake doubles risk of heart failure
September 5, 2017, 4:24 pm

A 12-year study of more than 4,000 people in Finland reveals that high salt intake is associated with a doubled risk of heart failure.

The study, conducted by researchers at the National Institute for Health and Welfare in Helsinki, aimed to assess the relationship between salt intake and the development of heart failure. High salt (sodium chloride) intake has already been implicated as one of the major causes of high blood pressure and an independent risk factor for coronary heart disease (CHD) and stroke.

Estimation of individual salt intake is methodologically demanding and therefore suitable population-based cohorts are rare. The new study was a follow-up to earlier research conducted between 1979 and 2002 among 4,630 randomly selected men and women aged 25 to 64 years in Finland.

The new study used 24 hour sodium extraction, which is considered the gold standard for salt intake estimation at individual level. At the study site, nurses measured urine volume and took a 100ml sample for laboratory analysis. One gram of salt intake was calculated as equal to 17.1 mmol sodium excretion.

The study cohort was followed up for 12 years through computerized register linkage to National Health Records. Cases of incident heart failure were identified from the Causes of Death Register, the Hospital Discharge Register and drug reimbursement records.

During the follow-up, 121 men and women developed new heart failure. The heart does not like salt and high salt intake markedly increases the risk of heart failure. The salt-related increase in heart failure risk was also found to be independent of blood pressure, said the research team.

People who consumed more than 13.7 grams of salt daily had a two times higher risk of heart failure compared to those consuming less than 6.8 grams. The optimal daily salt intake is probably even lower than 6.8 grams. The World Health Organization recommends a maximum of 5 grams per day and the physiological need is 2 to 3 grams per day.

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