By EJ Mundell
"Moderate sodium reduction among patients with chronic kidney disease and high sodium intake may lower [heart] risk," concluded a team led by Dr. Jiang He, of Tulane University in New Orleans.
About one in every 10 Americans is affected by chronic kidney disease, and more than one-third of U.S. adults have heart disease, the researchers noted. The role of daily salt intake in kidney patients -- and its effect on heart risk -- hasn't been clear, however.
To learn more, the investigators looked at outcomes for almost 3,800 patients with chronic kidney disease at seven locations across the United States. The patients provided urine samples to researchers at the beginning of the study in 2003, and then once a year over the next two years. Their medical histories were then followed until 2013.
The study couldn't prove cause and effect. However, people who scored in the highest 25 percent in terms of daily sodium intake had significantly higher rates of key cardiac events, the findings showed.
For example, more than 23 percent of people in the high-sodium group experienced heart failure, compared with about 13 percent of those who took in the least amount of salt per day.
About 11 percent of people in the high-salt group experienced a heart attack, compared with just under 8 percent of those with the least daily salt. The rate for stroke was just over 6 percent versus nearly 3 percent, respectively, according to the report.
One expert said the findings make sense, but there was one caveat.
"It's entirely possible that what the study suggests is true: that a lower salt intake in the setting of chronic kidney disease could lower heart disease risk," said Dr. Naveed Masani, a kidney disease specialist at Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola, N.Y.
"That said, the advice has to be individualized per patient between their primary care doctor, their cardiologist and their nephrologist [kidney specialist]," he stressed. "One size does not fit all."
The findings were published May 24 in the Journal of the American Medical Association. They were also scheduled for presentation the same day at the annual meeting of the European Renal Association and European Dialysis and Transplant Association in Vienna, Austria.