How Sodium Salt Can Reduce Risk of Stroke

  • High sodium and low potassium levels in the diet are associated with high blood pressure and an increased risk of heart disease and premature death.
  • A large, randomized trial in rural China has found that people who used reduced-sodium salt were less likely to have a stroke or die.
  • Importantly, reduced-sodium salt did not appear to increase the risk of hyperkalemia, which is dangerously high levels of potassium in the blood.
  • Widespread use of this type of salt could be a practical, inexpensive way to improve the health of low-income, disadvantaged populations.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that 47% of adults in the United States, around 116 million people, have high blood pressure, also known as hypertension.

This health issue increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease. The CDC also notes that in 2019, hypertension was either the main cause or a contributing factor in the deaths of more than half a million people in the U.S.

Globally, more than 1.28 billion adults have hypertension, and two-thirds of these adults live in low- and middle-income countries, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates.

Among the preventable causes of high blood pressure are smoking, alcohol consumption, physical inactivity, and being overweight.

High levels of sodium and low levels of potassium in the diet are also associated with hypertension and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and premature death.

There is good evidence that limiting sodium in the diet and taking potassium supplements can lower blood pressure.

People can achieve both of these ends by replacing the ordinary salt that they add to food with reduced-sodium salt. Regular salt is sodium chloride, while the reduced-sodium variety is a mixture of sodium chloride and potassium chloride.

This kind of table salt is widely available and inexpensive, and it tastes very similar to regular salt.

However, there has been a lack of hard evidence that people who use reduced-sodium salt to preserve and season their food are less likely to have a stroke and die prematurely.

In addition, some experts have been concerned that using reduced-sodium salt could raise the amount of potassium in the blood to dangerous levels, a health issue known as hyperkalemia.

Now, a large trial in rural China that investigated the long-term health effects of reduced-sodium salt suggests that this type of salt not only lowers the risk of stroke and death — it is also safe to use.

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