In this study, sodium excretion levels that were either higher or lower than the moderate range were each associated with increased risk.
For example, people who excreted higher levels of sodium than those with mid-range values had a greater risk of dying from heart disease, heart attack, stroke and hospitalization for heart failure, the report found.
On the other hand, people who excreted lower levels than mid-range were at a raised risk of dying from heart disease or being hospitalized for heart failure.
When the researchers assessed potassium levels, they found that a higher level of excretion of the nutrient was associated with a lower risk of stroke.
"The importance of potassium intake needs to be emphasized, a finding that may be lost in the discussion on sodium," said O'Donnell, who is also an associate professor of translational medicine, at the National University of Ireland in Galway. "Diets rich in fruit and vegetables are also rich in potassium intake."
It's not clear if these findings -- which came from a population already at high risk for heart trouble -- may also apply to lower-risk populations.
"They're really looking at the sickest of the sick. How does that apply to all of us?" said Dr. Daniel Anderson, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. "I think the difficulty is it probably doesn't. I worry that we're going to misinterpret this as meaning that too little sodium is a bad thing."
Bisognano agreed. "We don't want to give people the message that they should salt their pizza from this point forward," said Bisognano.
But consuming the right amount of sodium is only one aspect of heart health, said Karen Congro, director of the Wellness for Life Program
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