Here's a small change that can have a big impact on your heart health and our nation's fiscal health. Reduce your salt intake. Using a computer model, researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, led by Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, estimated that if we all cut down our salt intake by 3 grams per day (about 1/2 a teaspoon) we'd cut the number of new cases of coronary heart disease each year by as many as 120,000, stroke by 66,000 and heart attack by nearly 100,000. It could also prevent up to 92,000 deaths each year, while saving the country up to $24 billion in health care costs a year.
As reported in the January 20, 2010, online edition of the New England Journal of Medicine, all segments of the population would benefit, with African-Americans having the greatest improvements overall. Women would particularly benefit from reductions in stroke, older adults from reductions in coronary heart disease and younger adults from lower mortality rates.
The researchers built on the Coronary Heart Disease Policy Model, a computer simulation of heart disease in U.S. adults 35 to 84 years old. The data for the model came from several studies. These include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, the Framingham studies conducted and supported by NIH's National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), and trials testing the effects of reduced salt on blood pressure and heart disease, such as NHLBI's Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) trial.
Shaking the Salt Habit Reducing dietary sodium can help reduce high blood pressure, or hypertension, a serious condition that can lead to coronary heart disease, heart failure, stroke, kidney failure and other health problems. About 1 in 3 adults in the United States has high blood pressure. As it is, the average American's sodium consumption far exceeds the daily recommended 2,400 milligrams or less, which translates to about 6 grams of salt, or about a teaspoon. For those with high blood pressure, experts recommend no more than 1,500 milligrams or lessabout 3.7 grams of salt. However, the average man in the United States takes in over 10 grams of salt per day and the average woman over 7. While some dietary sodium comes from the salt you sprinkle on food, about three-quarters comes from processed food, including breads and cereals, dairy products and processed meats. "Our study suggests that the food industry and those who regulate it could contribute substantially to the health of the nation by working toward reducing the amount of salt in the processed foods that all of us consume," Bibbins-Domingo says.In the meantime, by shopping smart--carefully checking food labels--and adding flavor with herbs, you can significantly reduce you sodium intake.
Quick Facts on SaltMost sodium is consumed in the form of sodium chloride, whichis table salt. Other forms of sodium are also found in food, so watchout for salt AND sodiumTry to have less than 2,400 milligrams of sodium a day that's the same as 6 grams of salt a day, or about 1 teaspoonThat includes ALL sodium and salt what's in the product, and added in cooking and at the tableProcessed foods account for most of the sodium and salt consumedCheck food labels sodium is in some foods you might not expect, such as soy sauce and some antacidsKosher salt and sea salt are just that salt. Don't forget to include them in adding up your sodium intake for the dayReducing salt in the diet can lower blood pressure