Recent research reveals a simple trick to reducing the risk of heart disease

Recent research reveals a simple trick to reducing the risk of heart disease

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death and disability worldwide, and is often preventable with lifestyle changes such as maintaining a healthy diet and regular physical activity. One aspect of diet associated with 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 effects on health.

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

A new study published in Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that adding salt to food less frequently was associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, heart failure, and ischemic heart disease. The study suggests that even among those following the DASH eating style, interventions to reduce salt consumption can 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 have produced conflicting results due to a lack of practical methods to assess long-term dietary sodium intake. Recent research shows that the frequency of salt addition to food can be used to predict individual sodium intake over time.

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

“We also found that when patients combined the DASH diet with a low salt intake, they had the lowest risk of heart disease. This is significant because reducing extra dietary salt, rather than completely eliminating salt, is an incredibly modifiable risk factor that we hope we can encourage our patients to do without giving up much.”

In the current study, the authors assessed whether the frequency of added salt in food was associated with heart disease risk in 176,570 participants from the UK Biobank. The study also examined the association between the frequency of added salt in food and the DASH diet in relation to the risk of heart disease.

The study initially used a questionnaire to collect data on the frequency of adding salt to food, excluding salt used in cooking. Participants were also asked if they had made any major changes in their diet in the past 5 years, as well as if they had completed 1-5 cycles of 24-hour dietary recalls during the 3-year period.

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

While the DASH diet has shown benefits in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, 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 take into account sodium intake based on seven foods and nutrients that were emphasized or reduced in the DASH eating style.

Data on heart disease events were collected through medical history and data on hospital admissions, questionnaires and data from the death register.

Overall, study participants with lower frequency of adding salt to food were more likely to be female; White; have a lower body mass index; more likely to consume alcohol in moderation; they are 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 consume more fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes, whole grains, low-fat diet beverages but less sugar, or red/processed meat than those with higher the frequency of adding salt to food.

The researchers found that the association of added dietary salt with heart disease risk was stronger in participants of lower socioeconomic status, as well as in current smokers. A higher score on the modified DASH diet is associated with a lower risk of heart disease.

In a related editorial, Dr. Sara Ghoneim, a gastroenterologist at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, wrote that the study is promising, builds on previous reports and alludes to the potential impact of long-term salt intake on overall cardiovascular disease risk.

“The main limitation of the study is the self-reported frequency of added salt in food and the inclusion of participants only from the UK, limiting generalizability to other populations with different dietary behaviours,” said Ghoneim.

“The results of this study are encouraging and poised to expand our understanding of salt-related behavioral interventions on cardiovascular health.”

References: “Food Salt Addition and Cardiovascular Disease Risk” Hao Ma, MD, Ph.D., Xuan Wang, MD, Ph.D., Xiang Li, MD, Ph.D., Yoriko Heianza, RD, Ph.D. .D. and Lu Qi, MD, Ph.D., November 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 Dr. Sara Ghoneim, November 28, 2022. Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
DOI: 10.1016/j.jacc.2022.10.005

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