New research from Sweden has shown that a high salt intake is an important risk factor for clogged arteries in the neck and heart, increasing the risk of heart attacks and strokes even if you don't have high blood pressure. The study was published in the European Heart Journal Open and included 10,778 adults ages 50 to 64. The researchers measured the amount of salt found in participants' urine to estimate their salt consumption and then captured images of their arteries to check for calcium and blockages. They found that the more salt people consumed, the higher their risk of calcifications in the heart and neck arteries. The findings were seen even after the researchers excluded people with high blood pressure.
According to study author Jonas Wuopio of the Karolinska Institutet, Huddinge, and Clinical Research Center at Uppsala University in Sweden, the study is the first to examine the association between high salt intake and hardening of the arteries in both the head and neck. Wuopio also noted that the association was linear, meaning that each rise in salt intake was linked with more atherosclerosis.
Wuopio advises his patients to follow guidance from the World Health Organization and other groups to limit salt to about a teaspoon a day. He suggests limiting the use of table salt or replacing salt with a salt substitute.
Alon Gitig, an assistant professor and director of cardiology for Mount Sinai Doctors in Westchester, NY, recommends the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet to lower blood pressure. The diet suggests several servings of fruits and vegetables a day, with few refined carbohydrates, flour, and sugar. Gitig said that the diet can dramatically lower blood pressure because fruits and vegetables have many phytonutrients that are good for our arteries and most U.S. adults have insulin resistance, which leads to high blood pressure. Eating more fruits and vegetables and lean meats while limiting sugar and flour will improve insulin resistance and bring blood pressure down.
In conclusion, the study highlights the importance of limiting salt intake to reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes, even if one doesn't have high blood pressure. Additionally, adopting a healthy diet and maintaining a healthy weight can lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.