The relation between sodium intake and cardiovascular disease remains controversial, owing in part to inaccurate assessment of sodium intake. Assessing 24-hour urinary excretion over a period of multiple days is considered to be an accurate method.
We included individual-participant data from six prospective cohorts of generally healthy adults; sodium and potassium excretion was assessed with the use of at least two 24-hour urine samples per participant. The primary outcome was a cardiovascular event (coronary revascularization or fatal or nonfatal myocardial infarction or stroke). We analyzed each cohort using consistent methods and combined the results using a random-effects meta-analysis.
Among 10,709 participants, who had a mean (±SD) age of 51.5±12.6 years and of whom 54.2% were women, 571 cardiovascular events were ascertained during a median study follow-up of 8.8 years (incidence rate, 5.9 per 1000 person-years). The median 24-hour urinary sodium excretion was 3270 mg (10th to 90th percentile, 2099 to 4899). Higher sodium excretion, lower potassium excretion, and a higher sodium-to-potassium ratio were all associated with a higher cardiovascular risk in analyses that were controlled for confounding factors (P≤0.005 for all comparisons). In analyses that compared quartile 4 of the urinary biomarker (highest) with quartile 1 (lowest), the hazard ratios were 1.60 (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.19 to 2.14) for sodium excretion, 0.69 (95% CI, 0.51 to 0.91) for potassium excretion, and 1.62 (95% CI, 1.25 to 2.10) for the sodium-to-potassium ratio. Each daily increment of 1000 mg in sodium excretion was associated with an 18% increase in cardiovascular risk (hazard ratio, 1.18; 95% CI, 1.08 to 1.29), and each daily increment of 1000 mg in potassium excretion was associated with an 18% decrease in risk (hazard ratio, 0.82; 95% CI, 0.72 to 0.94).
Higher sodium and lower potassium intakes, as measured in multiple 24-hour urine samples, were associated in a dose-response manner with a higher cardiovascular risk. These findings may support reducing sodium intake and increasing potassium intake from current levels.