Healthy Choices – Understanding Your Salt Intake

We are inundated with news reports stating how unhealthy Americans are and that cardiovascular diseases are on the rise. Recently in the news there were reports on the rise in salt intake showing that three quarters of adults worldwide consume almost double the daily recommended amount of salt in their diets.

Last week this rise in salt intake was presented by the Harvard School of Public Health researchers at the American Heart Association’s Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism and Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention 2013 Scientific Sessions, thus the reason for the salt buzz in the media. The researchers noted that the increase in sodium intake may have been responsible for 2.3 million heart-related deaths worldwide in 2010.

According to the American Heart Association, an estimated one in three Americans who will develop high blood pressure, a high-sodium diet could be the reason.  The American Heart Association points out that

In some people, sodium increases blood pressure because it holds excess fluid in the body, creating an added burden to the heart.  Too much sodium in the diet may also have other harmful health effects, including increased risk for stroke, heart failure, osteoporosis, stomach cancer and kidney disease (1)

On a global scale, sodium intake from commercially prepared food, table salt, soy sauce, and salt added during food preparation, averaged nearly 4,000 mg a day in 2010. The World Health Organization recommends less than 2,000 mg a day of sodium; the American Heart Association recommends less than 1,500 mg a day.

With so many articles out there on the news and blogs, just like this one, it can be challenging to learn the facts. The American Heart Association breaks down the salt facts in a way that is easy to understand and provides helpful tools to learn to read nutrition labels and how to reduce sodium in your diet. The facts are out there and it is up to us to learn and educate ourselves and our loved ones so that we can live a healthier life.

(1) He FJ, MacGregor GA. A comprehensive review on salt and health and current experience of worldwide salt reduction programmes. J Hum Hypertens 2008.

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