Does Salt Damage Blood Vessels?

Salt in arteries increases hypertension risk

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Eating foods packed with salt over an extended period appears to cause a damaging build up in the blood vessels. That abundance of salt also increases the risk of developing high blood pressure.

Researchers were unable to pinpoint a cause-and-effect relationship between a high salt diet and hypertension, but the study adds evidence that high salt consumption is associated with elevated blood pressure.

"Choose low-salt options to minimize hypertension risk."

John Forman, MD, lead author of the study and a nephrologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, said the finding reinforces guidelines endorsed by the American Heart Association and other agencies that reducing salt consumption lowers the risk of developing hypertension. Consuming too much salt could contribute to high blood pressure in as many as 40 percent of hypertensive Americans.

During the observational PREVEND study, researchers tracked the sodium consumption of 5,556 Dutch men and women who were not taking blood pressure medications. Investigators collected multiple 24-hour urine samples to measure sodium levels.

Researchers then examined the link between sodium consumption and blood levels of uric acid and albumin in the urine, which can both suggest blood vessel damage. During an average follow up of just over six years, 878 patients were diagnosed with high blood pressure.

Researchers found that over a period of several years, higher salt intake was associated with increasing levels of uric acid and albumin. When these markers are higher, patients are considered at a greater risk of developing high blood pressure.

Participants that consumed less than 2,200 milligrams of salt daily were 21 percent less likely to develop hypertension compared to those who consumed high levels of sodium, or more than 6,200 milligrams a day.

Those who consumed the most salt and had high uric acid were 32 percent more likely to develop high blood pressure, while those with a high-salt diet with high albumin levels were at a risk that was 86 percent higher.

Researchers cautioned additional studies will be needed on more diverse populations since the study included only European Caucasians.

The research, funded by the American Heart Association, the National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Disease; and the Dutch Kidney Foundation, was recently published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation.

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Review Date: 
June 18, 2012
Last Updated:
June 18, 2012