Salt Tied to Heart Disease Risk in Overweight Individuals

From the WebMD Archives

Nov. 30, 1999 (Cleveland) -- For overweight patients, reducing daily salt intake could benefit their cardiovascular health, especially if weight loss is slow or not possible, according to a recent study published in the Dec. 1 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

"Our study indicates that a high sodium intake increases mortality from stroke, coronary heart disease, cardiovascular disease, and all causes in overweight persons," lead author Jiang He, MD, PhD, tells WebMD.

He and fellow authors analyzed data from the first National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey Epidemiologic Follow-up Study, derived from a nationally representative sample of the general population of the U.S. Information on daily salt intake and body mass index was gathered from 9,485 patients aged 25-74 years at the time of the survey. There were 2,688 overweight subjects and 6,797 non-overweight subjects included in the study.

After an average follow up of 19 years, these authors found that in overweight subjects, an increase of about 6 g of salt or 2.4 g of sodium per day was associated with a 39% increase in death from all causes. There was a 32% increase in the incidence of stroke, an 89% increase in death from stroke, and a 61% increase in death from heart disease among those who were overweight. However, in non-overweight subjects, dietary salt intake was not linked with cardiovascular disease risk.

According to most current recommendations, including those put out by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and the American Heart Association, Americans should consume no more than 2,400 mg of sodium (or 6 g of salt) per day.

"Our findings suggest that reduced sodium intake may be especially efficacious in overweight persons. To reduce the cardiovascular disease risk in overweight patients, physicians should recommend both weight loss and sodium reduction. For persons with difficulty losing weight, greater attention to reductions in sodium intake may be appropriate," says He, who is assistant professor of epidemiology at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine in New Orleans.

"[Now] there is even more reason for patients and their families to strive for moderate reductions in the consumption of dietary sodium," concludes the senior author of the study, Paul K. Whelton, MD, MSc.

Vital Information:

  • For people who are overweight, reducing daily salt intake may lower the risk of death from stroke, heart disease, and all other causes.
  • In people who are not overweight, salt intake is not associated with cardiovascular disease.
  • Current guidelines recommend that Americans consume no more than 2,400 mg of sodium per day.