A new study suggests that overweight people who consume a high-salt diet may be at greater risk of congestive heart failure compared with their peers who consume lower levels of sodium. Congestive heart failure is a chronic condition in which the heart loses its ability to pump efficiently, often due to an underlying cardiac problem such as coronary heart disease.
While previous research has suggested that the amount of salt a person consumes in their diet may increase their risk of congestive heart failure, the scientific support for this link is not definitive. In the current study, researchers from Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana evaluated dietary sodium intake and congestive heart failure in 5,233 normal weight and 5,129 overweight men and women.
The risk of developing the illness among overweight participants was 1.4 times greater for people whose sodium intake was greater then 113 millimoles (mmol) per day compared to those in the same group who consumed much less sodium, about 50 mmol per day, the investigators report. There was no link between sodium intake and heart failure in the normal weight participants.
Currently, experts estimate that two thirds of Americans consume between 120 and 180 mmols (2800 to 4800 milligrams) of sodium per day--greatly exceeding the 5 to 10 mmol daily intake needed by the body. And most of the sodium (85%) in the average American's diet is found in processed food. Health experts recommend that people consume less than 2400 milligrams of sodium a day.
Salt can boost blood pressure--a risk factor for heart failure--in salt-sensitive individuals. Also, salt can promote the retention of water in the bloodstream. Fluid retention is a problem for those with congestive heart failure, and fluid can build up in the lungs, causing breathlessness, or accumulate in the limbs, causing swelling.
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