Salt linked to millions of early deaths: How to stop overconsuming

Mar 22 2013 - 12:35pm
Salt linked to 2.4 million premature deaths worldwide in 2010

If you think salt in your food is something you cannot live without, you may want to reconsider. Results of studies from the American Heart Association show the common and frequently overused seasoning was responsible for millions of deaths worldwide in 2010. A second report revealed three quarters of the population consumes twice the recommended amount of sodium.

Seventy-five percent of people consume twice the recommended amount of salt

The findings, presented at the American Heart Association's Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism and Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention 2013 Scientific Sessions reveals 75 percent of the population consumes 3500 to 4000 mg or more a day of the seasoning.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommended less than 2000 mg a day for healthy individuals. The AHA says 1,500 mg a day protects heart health.

Saman Fahimi, M.D., M.Phil., lead author and a visiting scientist in the Harvard School of Public Health's epidemiology department in Boston, Mass said the hope is the finding will spur policy makers to develop public health interventions to get people to lower their sodium intake.

The study looked at how much salt men and women consume by country and is the first to uncover information about how much of the seasoning permeates our food across the globe.

Sodium in our food comes from table salt, when we cook, when food gets to the table and it is also disguised in pre-packaged and pre-prepared foods.

According to Harvard experts, everyday food is the primary source of too much sodium. Bread is one of the top sources, followed by cold cuts, pizza and poultry.

Salt in the diet is important for electrolyte balance. Sodium helps maintain cellular balance, but too much can led to hypertension, kidney disease, stroke, heart failure and more. Most salt is hidden in our foods. The CDC suggests most salt is hidden in food. Approximately 5 percent is intentionally added to food by consumers.

High sodium intake has been directly linked to heart disease and stroke in past studies.

For their study, researchers analyzed results of 247 surveys about sodium intake, classifying the results by age, gender, region and country between 1990 and 2010. The surveys came from the 2010 Global Burden of Diseases Study.

Risk of heart and blood vessel disease was then linked to sodium consumption from high blood pressure in a meta-analysis of 107 randomized, prospective trials and compared to cardiovascular risk for those whose salt intake is no more than 1000 mg per day.

The finding showed 1 million premature deaths in people 69 years old and younger; 60 percent in men and 40 percent in women. Heart attack accounted for 42 percent of deaths and 41 percent were from strokes. The rest occurred from other types of cardiovascular disease. Eighty-four percent of deaths were in low and middle-income countries from too much sodium consumption.

Among the largest countries, Ukraine, Russian and Egypt had the highest death rates from eating too much salt. The United States ranked 19th for death rates, representing 1 in 10 US deaths from heart and vascular related causes among the large countries studied.

Tips to lower your salt intake



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