A new study has found that paracetamol has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease and death from ‘hidden’ salt in certain types.
As more and more people watch what they eat, many may be unaware of the salt levels in certain medications they take.
The researchers set out to compare the results for people taking soluble paracetamol containing sodium or an effervescent and those taking the salt-free painkiller.
The team used data from 790 UK medical practices who collectively care for 17 million patients.
Between 2000 and 2017, they followed people aged 60 to 90 who were prescribed salt containing paracetamol or paracetamol without salt – those in the form of tablets, capsules or an oral suspension.
The international team of researchers followed 300,000 people, half of whom suffered from high blood pressure and the other half did not, for a year.
The study, published in the European Heart Journal, found that the risk of cardiovascular disease was higher in those who took paracetamol with salt.
Researchers found that the risk of heart attack, stroke or heart failure after one year for hypertensive patients taking sodium-containing paracetamol was 5.6%, down from 4.6 % in those taking paracetamol without sodium.
Among those who did not have high blood pressure, the risk of cardiovascular disease after one year was 4.4% in those taking paracetamol containing salt compared to 3.7% in those taking paracetamol without salt.
The risk of death during the follow-up period was also higher in those taking paracetamol with salt.
Why is salt included in paracetamol?
Salt is used in some soluble paracetamol because it can help the tablet break down in water.
Experts have said that some people can exceed their recommended daily salt limit with a full course of paracetamol containing salt alone.
Others called for front-of-package warnings for paracetamol, which contains high levels of salt.
Doctors have also said that people should be prescribed drug formulations with an extremely low amount of salt or none at all.
The study’s lead author, Professor Chao Zeng of Central South University in Changsha, China, said: “Since the pain relief effect of paracetamol without sodium is similar to that of paracetamol containing sodium, clinicians may prescribe sodium-free paracetamol. -containing paracetamol to their patients to minimize the risk of cardiovascular disease and death.
“People should pay attention not only to the salt intake in their diet, but also not to overlook the hidden salt intake of medicines in their cabinet.”