Sodium is a nutrient essential for cellular homeostasis and regulation of fluid balance.
Elevated sodium intakes are strongly linked to cardiovascular disease and hypertension, which is a major risk factor for heart attacks and stroke. Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death globally. Dietary salt intakes can be monitored to assess the general population risk, and also to monitor trends in salt intake or assess the effectiveness of public health interventions targeted at lowering salt intakes. Date of preparation: February 2018.
Importance of sodium for health
Sodium is a nutrient essential for cellular homeostasis and regulation of fluid and electrolyte balance, and therefore blood pressure. Elevated sodium intakes are strongly linked to cardiovascular disease (CVD) and hypertension (1), which is a major risk factor for heart attacks and stroke. CVDs are the leading cause of death globally. WHO estimated 17.6 million deaths were due to CVD in 2016, which is 32% of all deaths worldwide. The WHO Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases 2013-2020 has identified, amongst other voluntary targets, a “30% relative reduction in mean population intake of salt/sodium” (2).
Dietary salt intakes can be monitored to assess the general population risk of CVD. Data can also be used to monitor trends in salt intake with time, for example, to assess the effectiveness of a public health intervention targeted at lowering salt intakes.
Deficiency of sodium occurs only in pathological conditions such as severe diarrhoea, uncontrollable vomiting and some kidney disease. It may be seen in relation to some tropical diseases such as cholera (3). Under normal conditions, a deficiency in sodium is unlikely, due to the addition of salt (sodium chloride) to most pre-prepared foods, stocks, soups and bouillon cubes (4). The risk of excessive sodium intake is greater than the risk of a deficiency. An elevated sodium intake is a recognised causative factor in CVD and hypertension (1).
Keywords: Water balance, extracellular fluid, nerve impulse, muscle, heart, cellular energy, nutrient uptake and movement, Na+/K+ATPase pump, heart disease, stroke, hypertension
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