SAN FRANCISCO — We know that high salt levels can cause a wide range of health problems, but a recent study finds that children who don’t watch their intake are already putting themselves in position for serious heart problems in adulthood.
The findings of the study show that adolescents who include too much salt in their diet show signs of arterial stiffness, or hardened arteries, which is associated with cardiovascular disease and can lead to heart attacks or strokes in adulthood.
Instances of arterial stiffness had previously been discovered in adolescents who already have high risk factors like diabetes, obesity, hypertension, and high cholesterol, but dietary habits that might lead to arterial stiffness had not been researched. The study’s authors sought to learn how salt intake might impact the condition.
Researchers from the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital recruited 775 children from the clinic for the study. The children were tested for elasticity of the brachial artery in the upper arm. They were also tested for the difference in the speed that blood traveled between their carotid artery and their femoral artery. Participants’ diets were recorded over the three-day study period to monitor sodium consumption.
The authors found that children who reported higher levels of daily salt intake were more likely to have hardened arteries.
“Together, these two readings indicated higher levels of stiffness in both peripheral arteries in the extremities, as well as in central arteries, tied to higher sodium consumption,” explains lead author Elaine M. Urbina, Director of Preventive Cardiology at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, in a press release from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Urbina says that sodium consumption can often be overshadowed by other risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Parents should keep a close eye on the amount of salt a child is consuming on a daily basis to ensure a healthier future.
“It’s clear that adolescents and young adults have higher-than-recommended amounts of salt in their diet,” says Urbina. “Our study suggests this may translate into changes in the body that put them at higher risk for future heart attack and stroke.”
Urbina presented the findings in May 2017 at the annual Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting.