Role of Dietary Salt and Potassium Intake in Cardiovascular Health and Disease: A Review of the Evidence

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Abstract

The objective of this review was to provide a synthesis of the evidence on the effect of dietary salt and potassium intake on population blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and mortality. Dietary guidelines and recommendations are outlined, current controversies regarding the evidence are discussed, and recommendations are made on the basis of the evidence. Designed search strategies were used to search various databases for available studies. Randomized trials of the effect of dietary salt intake reduction or increased potassium intake on blood pressure, target organ damage, cardiovascular disease, and mortality were included. Fifty-two publications from January 1, 1990, to January 31, 2013, were identified for inclusion. Consideration was given to variations in the search terms used and the spelling of terms so that studies were not overlooked, and search terms took the following general form: (dietary salt or dietary sodium or [synonyms]) and (dietary potassium or [synonyms]) and (blood pressure or hypertension or vascular disease or heart disease or chronic kidney disease or stroke or mortality or [synonyms]). Evidence from these studies demonstrates that high salt intake not only increases blood pressure but also plays a role in endothelial dysfunction, cardiovascular structure and function, albuminuria and kidney disease progression, and cardiovascular morbidity and mortality in the general population. Conversely, dietary potassium intake attenuates these effects, showing a linkage to reduction in stroke rates and cardiovascular disease risk. Various subpopulations, such as overweight and obese individuals and aging adults, exhibit greater sensitivity to the effects of reduced salt intake and may gain the most benefits. A diet that includes modest salt restriction while increasing potassium intake serves as a strategy to prevent or control hypertension and decrease cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. Thus, the body of evidence supports population-wide sodium intake reduction and recommended increases in dietary potassium intake as outlined by current guidelines as an essential public health effort to prevent kidney disease, stroke, and cardiovascular disease.

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