Limited studies have examined the association between sodium (Na) and potassium (K) levels and the risk of atherosclerosis. This study examined whether higher Na and Na/K levels and low K levels were independent risk factors for atherosclerosis. This community-based cross-sectional study included 3290 subjects (1067 men and 2223 women) 40 to 75 years of age in Guangzhou, China, between 2011 and 2013. Urinary excretion of Na and K were measured from the first morning void, and creatinine-adjusted values were used. The intima-media thickness (IMT) of the carotid common artery and the carotid bifurcation was measured with high-resolution B-mode ultrasonography. Dietary K and Na intake and other covariates were obtained by face-to-face interviews. A significant positive association was seen between urinary Na excretion and carotid atherosclerosis after adjustment for age, sex, and other lifestyle covariates. The odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence interval (CI) of the highest (vs. lowest) quartile of urinary Na were 1.32 (1.04–1.66) for carotid plaques, 1.48 (1.18–1.87) for increased common carotid artery IMT, and 1.55 (1.23–1.96) for increased carotid bifurcation IMT (all p
-trend < 0.01). A similar positive association was observed between urinary Na/K levels and carotid plaque and increased IMT, and between dietary Na intake and increased bifurcation IMT. Regarding potassium data, we only found a significantly lower presence of carotid plaque (OR 0.72, 95% CI 0.57–0.91) for quartile 2 (vs. 1) of urinary K. Our findings suggest that higher levels of urinary excretion Na and Na/K are significantly associated with greater presence of carotid atherosclerosis in Chinese adults.
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