A new study has explored how reducing sodium intake may help patients with heart failure. The findings of the study have been published in the journal ‘The Lancet’.
While reducing salt intake did not lead to fewer emergency visits, hospitalizations or deaths for patients with heart failure, the researchers did find an improvement in symptoms such as swelling, fatigue and coughing, as well as a better overall better quality of life.
The researchers followed 806 patients at 26 medical centers in Canada, the United States, Colombia, Chile, Mexico and New Zealand. All suffered from heart failure, a condition in which the heart becomes too weak to pump blood effectively. Half of the study participants were randomly assigned to receive usual care, while the rest received nutritional advice on how to reduce their dietary salt intake.
Patients in the study’s nutritional advisory group were given dietitian-designed menu suggestions featuring foods from their own region and were encouraged to cook at home without adding salt and to avoid high-salt ingredients. Most dietary sodium is hidden in processed foods or restaurant meals rather than being shaken at the table, Ezekowitz noted.
“The general rule I’ve learned from dietitians is that anything in a bag, box, or a can generally contain more salt than you might think,” says Ezekowitz, who is also a cardiologist at the Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute and director of the Cardiovascular Research Institute at the U of A. The target sodium intake was 1,500 milligrams per day — or the equivalent of about two-thirds of a teaspoon of salt — which is the Health Canada-recommended limit for most Canadians, whether they have heart failure or not .
Before the study, patients consumed an average of 2,217 mg per day, or just under one teaspoon. After a one-year study, the usual care group consumed an average of 2,072 mg of sodium daily, while those receiving nutritional advice consumed 1,658 mg per day, a reduction of just under a quarter teaspoon equivalent.
The researchers compared the death rates from any cause, cardiovascular hospitalization, and cardiovascular emergency room visits in the two study groups, but found no statistically significant difference.
They found consistent improvements for the low-sodium group using three different quality of life assessment tools, as well as the New York Heart Association’s heart failure classification, a measure of heart failure severity. Ezekowitz said he will continue to advise heart failure patients to cut back on salt, but now he will be clearer about the expected benefits. He urged clinicians to recognize that dietary changes may be a helpful intervention for some of their patients.
Read all the latest news, breaking news and IPL 2022 Live Updates here.