Reduce Salt to Reduce Heart Disease

According to a new study if Americans reduced their daily salt intake by as little as 1 gram per day there would be 250,000 fewer new cases of heart disease and more than 200,000 fewer deaths over a decade.

These new statistics, announced at the American Heart Association's Annual Conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention were based on a calculation through a computer simulation of heart disease among adults in the U.S.

The link between high salt intake and high blood pressure and heart disease is not new, and the study authors have said that Americans are using 50 % more salt than they did in the 1970s, and perhaps why a similar rise in blood pressure rates has been witnessed.

Study researcher Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, MD, PhD, an assistant professor of medicine and epidemiology at the University of California, San Francisco in a news release said, "A very modest decrease in the amount of salt -- hardly detectable in the taste of food -- can have dramatic health benefits for the U.S.”

“We found that everyone in the U.S. would benefit, but the benefits would be particularly great for African-Americans, who are more likely to have high blood pressure and whose blood pressure is more likely to be sensitive to salt," she said.

Bibbins-Domingo said currently Americans consume 9 grams to 12 grams of salt a day, or 3,600 to 4,800 milligrams of sodium, with a majority coming from processed foods. Many health organizations recommend only 5 grams to 6 grams a day, which is 2,000 to 2,400 milligrams of sodium, which puts current consumption way over that limit.

The researchers used a computer simulation called the Coronary Heart Disease Policy Model to estimate the impact of reducing salt by 0 grams to 6 grams on heart disease and deaths from heart disease for the study.

For every gram of salt removed from the diet, the model said that, between 2010 and 2019, there could be more than 800,000 "life years" saved. If 6 grams a day were cut from people's diets, there would be 1.4 million fewer cases of heart disease and 1.1 million fewer deaths.

The study found that a 3-gram per day reduction in salt among all Americans would result in 6% fewer new cases of heart disease, 8 % fewer heart attacks and 3% fewer deaths while among African-Americans, there would be a 10% reduction in new cases of heart disease, 13 % fewer heart attacks and a 6% reduction in deaths. Three grams of salt a day is equivalent to 1,200 milligrams of sodium.

Researchers said changes were needed in the food industry. "It's clear that we need to lower salt intake, but individuals find it hard to make substantial cuts because most salt comes from processed foods, not from the salt shaker," says Bibbins-Domingo. "Our study suggests that the food industry and those who regulate it could contribute substantially to the health of the nation by achieving even small reductions in the amount of salt in these processed foods.