Advertisement

Using Salt Substitute May Lower Stroke Risk

Text Size:
Using Salt Substitute May Lower Stroke Risk

People at an increased risk for stroke were less likely to have a stroke — or other major cardiovascular events — if they used a salt substitute instead of regular salt, according to a new study published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Salt substitutes — which typically contain potassium chloride instead of sodium chloride — are not recommended for general use, since they carry a risk for elevated blood potassium levels. In people with certain health conditions — including diabetes, kidney disease, and high blood pressure — excess potassium levels can have serious consequences, including heart arrhythmias or even sudden cardiac death. So it’s important to talk with your health care provider about whether salt substitutes are right for you, or whether it’s safer to reduce your salt intake without introducing a new potassium-based alternative.

Advertisement

For the latest study, researchers looked at the risk of having a stroke in 20,995 people living in 600 villages in rural China, with an average age of 65.4. All participants either had a history of stroke (72.6% of participants), or were at least 60 years old with high blood pressure (88.4% of participants). Based on location, each group of participants was randomly assigned to use either a salt substitute containing 75% regular salt and 25% potassium chloride, or 100% regular salt. Participants were followed for an average of 4.74 years, during which researchers tracked not only strokes, but also other cardiovascular events like heart attacks as well as death from any cause — along with the safety-minded outcome of elevated blood potassium levels.

To get cutting-edge diabetes news, strategies for blood glucose management, nutrition tips, healthy recipes, and more delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our free newsletters!

Lower risk of stroke in those using salt substitutes

During the follow-up period, the rate of stroke was lower in the salt substitute group than in the regular salt group — 29.14 events per 1,000 person-years, compared with 33.65. This represents a 13.4% lower risk of having a stroke in the salt substitute group. There was also a lower rate of other major cardiovascular events in that group, with 49.09 events per 1,000 person years compared with 56.29 — a 12.8% lower risk. The risk of death from any cause in the salt substitute group was 39.28 per 1,000 person-years, compared with 44.61 — an 11.9% lower risk. There was no significant increase in serious events linked to high potassium levels in the salt substitute group.

The researchers concluded that using a salt substitute was linked to a significantly lower risk for stroke, other cardiovascular events, and death in the study group. It’s unknown whether using a salt substitute containing no regular salt at all — instead of 75% regular salt — would lead to an even lower risk for stroke or other unwanted outcomes, or whether a higher level of potassium in a salt substitute would raise the risk for serious events linked to high blood potassium levels.

Want to learn more about maintaining cardiovascular health? Read “Be Heart Smart: Habits That Can Harm Your Heart” and “Be Heart Smart: Know Your Numbers.”

Quinn Phillips

Quinn Phillips

Quinn Phillips on social media

A freelance health writer and editor based in Wisconsin, Phillips has a degree from Harvard University. He is a former Editorial Assistant for Diabetes Self-Management and has years of experience covering diabetes and related health conditions. Phillips writes on a variety of topics, but is especially interested in the intersection of health and public policy.

Get Diabetes-Friendly Recipes In Your Inbox

Sign up for Free

Stay Up To Date On News & Advice For Diabetes

Sign up for Free

Get On Track With Daily Lifestyle Tips

Sign up for Free

Save Your Favorites

Save This Article