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Mar 07, 2013

Cutting Salt Intake Could Save More Than One Million Lives

According to researchers, if Americans reduced their daily sodium intake, between 850,000 to 1.2 million lives could be saved over a decade.

We all know that we should watch our salt intake, but the fact remains that very few people meet guidelines for sodium consumption. The current recommendation is to consume less than 2,300 mg of sodium a day, unless you have high blood pressure or are at higher risk for heart disease (then you should keep sodium intake to less than 1,500 mg). However, Americans consume about 3,600 mg of sodium a day—that’s at least 50% more salt than we should be consuming on a daily basis. And too much salt can increase blood pressure, which can drastically increase risk for heart disease. This leaves many to wonder: how many lives could be saved if we got Americans to reduce their salt intake, even just a little?

According to new estimates published in the American Heart Association’s medical journal, Hypertension, the effects are massive. If Americans gradually reduced their sodium intake each year by the equivalent of 1/20th a teaspoon of salt for 10 years, researchers estimate that anywhere from 280,000 to 500,000 lives could be saved. Further reducing sodium intake to 2,200 mg and 1,500 mg could save 850,000 and 1.2 million lives over a 10-year span, respectively.

The benefits of cutting back sodium intake nationwide could be huge, highlighting an opportunity to help Americans reduce their risk for heart disease in a very simple way. If we look at ways in which we can improve our heart health like exercise, losing weight, and quitting smoking, these changes take some effort and significant lifestyle change. In comparison, cutting back on salt is one small change to our diet that can have a big impact on our health. And for many Americans, reducing sodium intake is easier than you might think. By paying more attention to food labels and serving sizes, it’s easy to see which foods are high in sodium, like processed foods, that could be replaced with other items containing less sodium. Also, for people who add table salt to their meals, simply getting out of this habit could help drastically cut down the amount of salt consumed over the course of a day. After all, the recommended 2,300 mg of sodium a day equals about one teaspoon of table salt a day—a total that many Americans drastically exceed.

Questions for You to Consider

  • How does sodium intake affect heart health?
  • Consuming too much sodium can increase blood pressure, which causes an estimated 45% of heart disease in the United States. By limiting sodium intake to 2,300 mg a day (or 1,500 mg for some adults), you can drastically reduce your risk for heart disease.

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