They studied 1.2 million UK patients and found people taking the maximum daily dose of effervescent tablets increased their risk of stroke or heart attack by a fifth, and they were seven times more likely to have high blood pressure or hypertension.
“We know that high salt causes hypertension and that hypertension leads to stroke,” said lead researcher Dr Jacob George, from Dundee University.
Effervescent drugs contain bicarbonate to help them dissolve, but sodium is also often added.
When you combine this with salt from processed foods, Dr George said people’s daily intake could reach alarming levels.
Dr George compared 24 different effervescent medicines and found the salt levels ranged from 69mg to 414mg, which is about a fifth of a teaspoon.
The National Health and Medical Research Centre advises Australians limit their salt intake to 1600mg (4g) per day. The average Australian consumes 9 grams, which is more than double the recommended amount.
Many of these drugs are available over-the-counter and Dr George said patients who regularly take effervescent medication should be aware of the risks.
He also called on drug manufacturers to find ways to reduce their products’ salt levels.
Dr Robert Grenfell, national director of cardiovascular health at the Heart Foundation, told ninemsn that salt from any source is a concern.
“People taking regular medication who are concerned about their salt intake should speak to their doctor about whether their medication contains salt and whether they need to make any changes to their diet or what they are taking,” he said.
But Dr Grenfell pointed out that processed foods are what we should be really concerned about.
“Around 75 percent of the salt we eat is from everyday processed foods, like bread, breakfast cereals, canned vegetables and sauces,” he said.
The study was published in the British Medical Journal