If you have heart failure (currently Blacks have the highest incidence and prevalence of heart failure with the worst clinical outcomes), there’s good news and bad news on how much it would help you to cut back on salt.
New research finds that while it doesn’t prevent death or hospitalization among patients, it does appear to improve their quality of life.
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How low salt intake can improve quality of life
Patients with heart failure have been told for years to reduce the salt in their diet as a way to help prolong life, but among more than 800 patients from six countries, reducing salt intake didn’t prevent deaths, visits to the emergency room, or hospitalizations, the researchers found.
Still, “we do think that there is a small amount to be gained by reducing the amount of sodium in the diet,” says researcher Dr. Justin Ezekowitz, a professor in the division of cardiology at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada.
The patients in the study were already eating a lot less salt than most Americans consume, although they had not achieved the optimal goal of the amount of salt recommended, he explains.
“The expected goal is not reducing clinical events necessarily, but it does improve quality of life, which might be very important for individual patients,” Ezekowitz shares.
For the study, the research team followed heart failure patients from 26 medical centers in Australia, Canada, Colombia, Chile, Mexico and New Zealand. Half were randomly assigned to receive usual care, and the rest received nutritional counseling on how to further reduce their dietary salt intake.
Patients who received counseling were given menu suggestions and encouraged to cook at home and not add salt. They were also urged to avoid salty foods.
Patients were asked to keep their salt intake to 1,500 milligrams (mg) per day — about two-thirds of a teaspoon. Before the study, patients added an average of 2,217 mg per day, or about one teaspoon. After one year, those not receiving nutritional advice ate an average of 2,072 mg of salt daily, while those who received nutritional guidance ate 1,658 mg per day.
Although Ezekowitz’s group didn’t find significant differences in deaths or hospitalizations between the two groups of patients, those on the low-salt diet did show