Scientists from Karolinska Institute found that eating a high-salt diet may increase the risk of hardened arteries even in people with normal blood pressure.
This study aimed to look at the relationship between salt intake and two types of atherosclerosis (a condition where arteries become narrowed or blocked due to the buildup of fatty deposits).
Atherosclerosis can lead to serious health problems such as heart attacks and strokes. The researchers wanted to see if consuming too much salt was linked to these health issues.
The researchers looked at data from the Swedish Cardiopulmonary bioImage Study, which involved people from two different areas of Sweden.
The study included a total of 10,700 participants who underwent a type of ultrasound called carotid ultrasound to check for plaque buildup in their carotid arteries (the arteries in the neck that supply blood to the brain).
Additionally, 9,623 participants also underwent a test called coronary computed tomography to check for coronary artery calcium score (a measure of calcium buildup in the arteries of the heart).
The researchers calculated each participant’s estimated 24-hour sodium excretion (a measure of salt intake) using a formula called the Kawasaki formula.
The researchers found that higher levels of salt intake were linked to an increased likelihood of having carotid plaques, higher coronary artery calcium scores, and coronary artery stenosis (narrowing of the arteries in the heart) in their initial analyses.
However, they found that these associations disappeared when they adjusted for blood pressure.
This suggests that the link between salt intake and atherosclerosis is mainly due to its effect on blood pressure.
When the researchers adjusted for other established cardiovascular risk factors (such as smoking and diabetes), they found that the association between salt intake and carotid plaques remained, but the association with coronary atherosclerosis disappeared.
The researchers did not find any evidence of a J-shaped relationship between salt intake and atherosclerosis (where moderate salt intake might have a protective effect).
In summary, this study suggests that consuming too much salt may increase the risk of developing atherosclerosis, particularly in the carotid arteries.
However, this link seems to be largely mediated by blood pressure.
It is important to note that this study only shows an association and cannot prove causation, and more research is needed to fully understand the relationship between salt intake and atherosclerosis.
Reducing salt intake can be beneficial for overall health, as it can help lower blood pressure and decrease the risk of heart disease and stroke. Here are some tips on how to reduce salt intake:
Read food labels: Many packaged foods, such as canned soups, sauces, and snacks, contain high levels of sodium. Check the labels and choose low-sodium options.
Choose fresh foods: Fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats are naturally low in sodium. Try to incorporate more fresh foods into your diet.
Use herbs and spices: Instead of adding salt to your meals, try using herbs and spices to add flavor. Some great options include garlic, ginger, black pepper, and rosemary.
Limit processed foods: Processed foods, such as deli meats, frozen meals, and fast food, are often high in sodium. Try to limit your intake of these foods.
Cook at home: Cooking meals at home allows you to control the amount of salt that goes into your food. Try using salt substitutes or reducing the amount of salt in recipes.
Be aware of hidden salt: Some foods, such as bread and cheese, may not taste salty but can still be high in sodium. Be aware of these hidden sources of salt in your diet.
Gradually reduce salt intake: Reducing salt intake too quickly can be difficult and may lead to cravings. Gradually reducing salt intake over time can help make the transition easier.
By making these small changes to your diet and lifestyle, you can reduce your salt intake and improve your overall health.
The research was published in European Heart Journal Open and was conducted by Jonas Wuopio et al.
If you care about high blood pressure, please read studies that early time-restricted eating could help improve blood pressure, and natural coconut sugar could help reduce blood pressure and artery stiffness.
For more information about blood pressure, please see recent studies about added sugar in your diet linked to higher blood pressure, and results showing vitamin D could improve blood pressure in people with diabetes.
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