MONDAY, June 18 (HealthDay News) -- Indulging in a bag of chips or munching a handful of nuts now and then isn't likely to hurt you in the short run, but regularly chowing down on salty foods over several years may damage your blood vessels and lead to high blood pressure, a new study finds.
Researchers reporting in the June 18 online edition of Circulation said that eating too much salt over time may affect the lining of blood vessels, increasing the likelihood of developing high blood pressure.
"This study reinforces guidelines backed by the American Heart Association and other professional organizations that recommend reducing salt consumption to reduce your risk of developing high blood pressure," said Dr. John Forman, lead author of the study and assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston.
High blood pressure, also called hypertension, can contribute to heart failure, stroke and kidney failure.
Researchers tracked the salt intake of 5,556 white men and women from the Netherlands over about six years. None of the participants had high blood pressure at the study's start.
By analyzing 24-hour urine samples collected periodically over several years, the researchers noted the amount of uric acid and albumin in the urine, markers of blood vessel damage. They also tracked the amount of salt, or sodium, the participants ate by measuring how much sodium ended up in their urine.
The researchers found that, over time, people who ingested more sodium had more uric acid and albumin in their urine.
The higher the levels of uric acid and albumin, the more likely those people were to develop high blood pressure if they continued on high-sodium diets, the investigators found. Over the approximately six-year period of the study, 878 new cases of hypertension (high blood pressure) were discovered.
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