By Deb Dellapena
Food isn’t the only way salt sneaks into your diet. Some painkillers contain enough sodium to raise your risk for heart attack and stroke, according to new Scottish research.
Over 23 years, scientists studied 1.2 million patients taking medications that include sodium. Turns out, people who took soluble supplements and meds—the kind that dissolve in your mouth or water—were seven times more likely to have high blood pressure and 22 per cent more likely to have a stroke than patients using similar sodium-free meds.
Believe it or not, common medications like Reglan, Nature Made Vitamin C, Caltrate calcium supplements, and Tylenol all include sodium. Vitamin C can pack 491 milligrams (mg) and calcium supplements usually contain about 53 mg of salt. In fact, some forms of acetaminophen can pack 1,088 mg in a 500 mg tablet—the same as in 8 ounces of Swedish meatballs—the study found.
But know this: researchers studied an acetaminophen that is widely used in Europe and Asia—and not so much in Australia. And we’re talking about the dissolvable kinds, not the ones you swallow with a glass of water, which tend to have less than a milligram of sodium.
Excess amounts of salt—especially in addition to the average 3,200 mg Australians take in per day—could take a toll on your heart, upping your risk of cardiovascular events if your exposure is prolonged, researchers say. But popping a pill every now and then isn’t going to give you a stroke or raise your blood pressure dangerously high: “It’s the long-term use of these drugs that resulted in the increased risks we saw,” says lead researcher Dr Jacob George.
If you’re healthy, salty meds likely aren’t your biggest problem—especially if you’re only taking them every now and then. Plus, chances are you’re swallowing your pills and avoiding the issue all together.
If you take a soluble prescription med or supplement and you're still worried about your sodium intake, follow these steps to be safe:
- Call the manufacturer
- Or talk to your doc about ingredients. A discussion can help you confirm you’re taking the right medication.