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Simple diet change at mealtimes could ‘slash your risk of silent killer’

DO you put the salt shaker on the table at dinnertime without even thinking?

You’re not alone, but you might want to rethink how often you reach for it if you’re keen to protect your heart.

How often you add salt to your meals is linked to heart health

Scientists have long known that a diet high in salt can lead to high blood pressure, which is linked to heart failure.

Now a new study has discovered that it’s not just how much, but also how often you sprinkle salt on your food that can have a major impact on your heart health.

While a sprinkling might amp up flavour, regularly adding salt to your plate can increase your risk of heart disease.

However, a new study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology has found you don’t have to stop eating salt completely for you to reduce your risk.

In fact, just cutting how often you add salt to food after cooking can make a difference – although that doesn’t mean you can go wild salting your chips. 

Lu Qi, professor at the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine at Tulane University in New Orleans, said: “Overall, we found that people who don’t shake on a little additional salt to their foods very often had a much lower risk of heart disease events, regardless of lifestyle factors and pre-existing disease.

“We also found that when patients combine a DASH diet with a low frequency of adding salt, they had the lowest heart disease risk.

“This is meaningful as reducing additional salt to food, not removing salt entirely, is an incredibly modifiable risk factor that we can hopefully encourage our patients to make without much sacrifice.”

The DASH diet stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (aka high blood pressure) and focuses on foods that are rich in potassium, calcium and magnesium, and low in salt, saturated fat and refined sugars.

In the study, 176,570 participants from the UK Biobank were given a questionnaire to evaluate how frequently they added salt to food.

They survey didn’t look at the salt they added during cooking e.g. in pasta water.

But they were asked about any major diet changes they might have made in the last five years, alongside having their medical history of cardiovascular events (like heart attacks) taken.

The researchers found that participants that were women, white, had a lower body mass index, moderate alcohol consumption, were non-smokers and more physically active, on average added salt to their food less frequently. 

They also spotted a stronger association between adding salt and heart disease risk amongst smokers and those from a lower socioeconomic background.

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