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Consuming less salt is widely seen as an important step in reducing heart disease and hypertension.
But a new study from the University of Glasgow says low levels of chloride, salt's other constituent, in the blood is an indicator of mortality risk in people with hypertension.
After analyzing data from almost 13,000 patients with high blood pressure, followed up over 35 years, the researchers say they found that low levels of chloride was associated with a higher risk of death and cardiovascular disease.
The group with the lowest level of chloride in their blood had a 20% higher mortality rate compared to the other subjects, the team concluded.
"However, our study has put the spotlight on this under-studied chemical to reveal an association between low levels of chloride serum in the blood and a higher mortality rate, and surprisingly this is in the opposite direction to the risks associated with high sodium.
"It is likely that chloride plays an important part in the physiology of the body and we need to investigate this further."
Chloride is already measured as part of routine clinical screening and so monitoring of chloride levels could easily be incorporated into clinical practice to identify individuals at high risk, the researchers say.
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