Though it is well known that as people's sodium intake rises, their
blood pressure is likely to increase as well, it is less clear whether a
salty diet may ultimately mean higher risks of stroke and heart attack
down the road.
But researchers whose findings were published in
the journal Stroke said that of the close to 2,700 older, mostly
minority adults they studied, those who got well above the recommended
sodium intake were nearly three times as likely to suffer a stroke over
10 years as people who met guidelines recommended by the American Heart
"High sodium intake was prevalent and associated
with an increased risk of stroke independent of vascular risk factors,"
wrote Hannah Gardener, a researcher at the University of Miami School of
Medicine, who led the study.
Unlike blood pressure, which
changes quickly, stroke and heart disease are long-range complications,
so studying the relationship between people's sodium intake and their
risk of heart problems and stroke is more difficult.
Heart Association (AHA) suggests that people limit their sodium intake
to no more than 1,500 milligrams a day. That's a bit more strict than
some other recommendations. The World Health organization, for example,
advises a limit of 2,000 milligrams.
But people in the new study,
mainly black and Hispanic New Yorkers, typically consumed well above
those recommendations, averaging 3,031 milligrams of sodium per day.
results are based on 2,657 adults who were interviewed about their
health and lifestyle, and completed dietary questionnaires. They were
69-years-old, on average, at the study's start.
Over the next 10
years, there were 235 strokes in the group. People who had downed at
least 4,000 milligrams of sodium each day at the outset were almost
three times more likely to suffer a stroke as those who'd kept their
daily sodium below 1,500 milligrams.
Among the 558 people whose
sodium intake topped 4,000 milligrams a day, there were 66 strokes. That
compared with 24 strokes among the 320 people who met the AHA
Gardener cautioned that they couldn't definitively
draw conclusions about cause-and-effect, since people who keep their
salt intake in check may be healthier in other ways too.
and her colleagues accounted for smoking habits, exercise, education and
other health conditions that can contribute to strokes, and there was
still a strong correlation between sodium and stroke risk.
few people in the United states may be meeting the sodium consumption
goals. It's estimated that the typical US man gets 4,000 milligrams of
sodium a day, while women typically get 2,800 milligrams - most of it
from prepared foods or those eaten in restaurants.
foods popular with Americans are laden with sodium," Gardener said,
suggesting that people read food labels carefully and stick to "whole
foods" such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains, as much as possible.
steps must be taken by the industry and public health officials as
well, such as cutting sodium in prepared and restaurant food.