Passing Up the Salt Saves Lives


The American Heart Association has recommended “passing up the salt” for years. Last spring AHA’s news release stated that even a small reduction by just 1 gram of salt per day would result in 250,000 fewer new cases of heart disease and 200,000 fewer deaths over the coming decade. A reduction of salt intake by 3-gram per day would result in 6% fewer new cases of heart disease and 3% fewer deaths.

Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco have added to the growing knowledge that reinforces the need to “pass up the salt” using a computer simulation analysis of heart disease in U.S. adults ages 35 to 84. Their findings have been published online by the New England Journal of Medicine.
New England Journal of Medicine
The analysis found that reducing daily salt intake by 3 grams a day could reduce the annual number of new cases of coronary heart disease (CHD) by 60,000 to 120,000, stroke by 32,000 to 66,000, and myocardial infarction by 54,000 to 99,000. The analysis estimated annual reduction in deaths from any cause by 44,000 to 92,000.

“Passing on the salt” is a more cost-effective way to lower blood pressure than using medications. Reducing salt intake by 3 g per day would save an estimated $10 billion to $24 billion in health care costs annually.

Healthy American adults should reduce their sodium intake to less than 2300 mg (about 1 teaspoon) per day. The average American consumes about 6 to 18 grams of salt daily. That's roughly one to three teaspoonfuls. Your body actually needs only about 200 mg of sodium each day (only 1/12 teaspoon).


Tips for reducing your salt intake:

  1. Eat fewer processed foods.
  2. Read the labels.
  3. Don’t use the salt shaker. Use the pepper shaker or mill.
  4. Add fresh lemon juice to fish and vegetables instead of salt.
  5. Try the DASH diet (pdf) which features high intake of fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, and whole grains, resulting in high potassium, magnesium, calcium, and fiber consumption, moderately high protein consumption, and low total and saturated fat consumption.

    Related stories
    Please, Pass (On) the Salt
    DASH Diet Reduces Heart Failure in Women

    Bibbins-Domingo K, et al "Projected effect of dietary salt reductions on future cardiovascular disease" N Engl J Med 2010; published online Jan. 20.

    Appel LJ, Anderson CAM "Compelling evidence for public health action to reduce salt intake" N Engl J Med 2010; published online Jan. 20.


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