A reduction in sodium intake is often recommended for heart health, and a recent randomized clinical trial has shown how cutting back on salt can reduce some symptoms for heart failure patients. However, lowering sodium intake does not seem to improve hospitalizations or deaths.
The study, published in The Lancet, included over 800 patients with chronic heart failure from around the world. Patients were randomly assigned to either follow a low sodium diet along with their usual care or to receive standard care for heart failure without any additional measures. Interestingly, a reduction in sodium intake did not lead to a reduction in emergency room visits, hospitalizations, or deaths. However, consistent improvements were seen in quality-of-life assessments in the low sodium group compared to the control group. In addition, symptoms such as swelling, coughing, and fatigue were improved in those consuming less salt.
The lead author noted that it is a common “blanket recommendation” to lower sodium intake in heart failure patients, but this recommendation will not necessarily lead to better outcomes in terms of hospitalizations or deaths. Instead, this study has shown that it will definitively improve quality of life for heart failure patients.
In addition to these results, sodium reduction is often recommended for overall heart health. Too much sodium can damage blood vessels over time due to an increase in blood pressure. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease, and up to 90% of Americans are expected to develop high blood pressure over their lifetimes. The lead author of this study said he will continue to advise heart failure patients to reduce sodium intake, but he will be clear about the expected benefits for those patients.