Lowering salt intake could could mean fewer heart attacks, deaths


Washington : For every gram of salt that Americans reduce in their daily diets, over 200,000 deaths and quarter million new heart disease cases could be averted over a decade, according to a new study.

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“A very modest decrease in the amount of salt – hardly detectable in the taste of food – can have dramatic health benefits for the US,” said Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, lead author of the study and an assistant professor of medicine and epidemiology, University of California, San Francisco (UC-SF).

“It was a surprise to see the magnitude of the impact on the population, given the very small reductions in salt that we were modelling.”

A three-gram-a-day reduction in salt intake (about 1,200 mg of sodium) would result in six percent fewer cases of new heart disease, eight percent fewer heart attacks, and three percent fewer deaths.

Even larger health benefits are projected for African-Americans, who are more likely to have high blood pressure (BP) and whose BP may be more sensitive to salt. Among this community, new heart disease cases would be reduced by 10 percent, heart attacks by 13 percent and deaths by six percent.

For years, ample evidence has linked salt intake to high BP and heart disease. Yet, salt consumption among Americans has risen by 50 percent and BP has risen by nearly the same amount since the 1970s, according to researchers.

Currently, Americans eat nine to 12 grams of salt per day. This amount is far in excess than recommended by most health organisations. Each gram of salt contains 0.4 grams of sodium.

To estimate the benefit of making small reductions in salt intake, the investigators used the Coronary Heart Disease Policy Model, a computer simulation of heart disease in the adult US population.

The model can be used to evaluate the impact of policy changes on the health of the nation, and has previously been used to project the future of heart disease in the US given the current rate of childhood obesity, Bibbins-Domingo said.

The researchers made this presentation at the American Heart Association’s (AHA) 49th Annual Conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention, said an AHA release.