Background: High sodium intake increases blood pressure, a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, but the effects of sodium intake on global cardiovascular mortality are uncertain.
Methods: We collected data from surveys on sodium intake as determined by urinary excretion and diet in persons from 66 countries (accounting for 74.1% of adults throughout the world), and we used these data to quantify the global consumption of sodium according to age, sex, and country. The effects of sodium on blood pressure, according to age, race, and the presence or absence of hypertension, were calculated from data in a new meta-analysis of 107 randomized interventions, and the effects of blood pressure on cardiovascular mortality, according to age, were calculated from a meta-analysis of cohorts. Cause-specific mortality was derived from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010. Using comparative risk assessment, we estimated the cardiovascular effects of current sodium intake, as compared with a reference intake of 2.0 g of sodium per day, according to age, sex, and country.
Results: In 2010, the estimated mean level of global sodium consumption was 3.95 g per day, and regional mean levels ranged from 2.18 to 5.51 g per day. Globally, 1.65 million annual deaths from cardiovascular causes (95% uncertainty interval [confidence interval], 1.10 million to 2.22 million) were attributed to sodium intake above the reference level; 61.9% of these deaths occurred in men and 38.1% occurred in women. These deaths accounted for nearly 1 of every 10 deaths from cardiovascular causes (9.5%). Four of every 5 deaths (84.3%) occurred in low- and middle-income countries, and 2 of every 5 deaths (40.4%) were premature (before 70 years of age). The rate of death from cardiovascular causes associated with sodium intake above the reference level was highest in the country of Georgia and lowest in Kenya.
Conclusions: In this modeling study, 1.65 million deaths from cardiovascular causes that occurred in 2010 were attributed to sodium consumption above a reference level of 2.0 g per day. (Funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.).