Objective: High sodium intake increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases and may also be associated with higher rates of stomach cancer, asthma disorders and infections. In Finland, cross-sectional population surveys to monitor cardiovascular risk factors have been carried out since the 1970s. The main aim of this paper is to present trends in urinary sodium and potassium excretion from 1979 to 2002.
Design: Cross-sectional population surveys on cardiovascular risk factors.
Setting: Surveys were carried out in Finland in 1979, 1982, 1987 and 2002 in four geographical areas: North Karelia, the Kuopio area, Southwestern Finland and the Helsinki area.
Subjects: For each survey a random sample stratified by age and sex was drawn from the population register. In this analysis, participants of urine collection subsamples aged 25-64 years (n = 4648) were included.
Interventions: A 24-h urinary collection was carried out in subsamples (n = 2218-2487) in connection with population risk factor surveys. Urinary sodium and potassium concentrations were analyzed in the same laboratory throughout, using a flame photometer in 1979, 1982 and 1987 and an ion-selective electrode in 2002.
Results: Between 1979 and 2002 urinary sodium excretion in Finland decreased from over 220 to less than 170 mmol/day among men and from nearly 180 to less than 130 mmol/day among women. Although potassium excretion decreased somewhat as well, the decrease in sodium-potassium molar ratio was also significant.
Conclusions: The 24-h urinary sodium excretion in Finland has decreased significantly during the last 20 years. However, excretion levels are still considerably higher than recommendations. A further decrease in sodium intake remains a goal for the Finnish food industry and consumers.
Sponsorship: All surveys were funded by the National Public Health Institute in Finland.