Lower sodium intake and risk of headaches: Results from the trial of Nonpharmacologic Interventions in the Elderly

Liwei Chen, Zhenzhen Zhang, Wen Chen, Paul K. Whelton, Lawrence J. Appel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives. To determine the effect of sodium (Na) reduction on occurrence of headaches. Methods. In the Trial of Nonpharmacologic Interventions in the Elderly, 975 men and woman (aged 60-80 years) with hypertension were randomized to a Na-reduction intervention or control group and were followed for up to 36 months. The study was conducted between 1992 and 1995 at 4 clinical centers (Johns Hopkins University, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, and the University of Tennessee). Results. Mean difference in Na excretion between the Na-reduction intervention and control group was significant at each follow-up visit (P < .001) with an average difference of 38.8 millimoles per 24 hours. The occurrence of headaches was significantly lower in the Na-reduction intervention group (10.5%) compared with control (14.3%) with a hazard ratio of 0.59 (95% confidence interval = 0.40, 0.88; P = .009). The risk of headaches was significantly associated with average level of Na excretion during follow-up, independent of most recent blood pressure. The relationship appeared to be nonlinear with a spline relationship and a knot at 150 millimoles per 24 hours. Conclusions. Reduced sodium intake, currently recommended for blood pressure control,may also reduce the occurrence of headaches in older persons with hypertension.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1270-1275
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican journal of public health
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2016
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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