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May 22, 2014

Reducing Salt Intake, Nationwide

Experts identify ways to reduce salt consumption and improve heart health in the United States.

It’s going to take a village to limit the salt content of foods in the U.S., but experts are up for the challenge according to a paper published in the American Heart Association’s journal, Circulation.

Last June, 128 experts gathered in Arlington, Va., to create a strategy for reducing salt intake nationwide to improve cardiovascular health. Currently, Americans consume more than 3,400 milligrams of sodium per day—more than twice what’s recommended by the American Heart Association. There’s a wealth of research linking too much sodium to high blood pressureheart disease and stroke, and experts believe reducing salt intake could save lives.

High blood pressure and high sodium intake account for more than 400,000 deaths each year in the United States and experts hope to engage major stakeholders to reduce salt consumption nationally by 2020. During the interactive forum in Virginia this past June, experts from the health care, food manufacturing, restaurant operations and policy fields discussed how they can all work together to reduce salt consumption and improve health outcomes.

After much discussion, stakeholders agree that more research is needed to solidify sodium recommendations. The American Heart Association recommends limiting sodium intake to no more than 1,500mg a day, while other health organizations set a higher target. Still, all experts believe that Americans would be much better off reducing sodium intake and further research is needed to understand just how much salt Americans can safely consume.

Stakeholders also agree that we need to limit sodium content of foods through policy and improve food labels to help consumers understand the amount of salt contained in their favorite foods. At the same time, we need to educate consumers about the impact of salt consumption on heart health. Most Americans consume far too much sodium yet few know how their salt consumption can impact heart health. By engaging researchers, health care professionals, the government, food industry and even chefs, experts believe that together we can reduce salt intake and drastically improve the heart health of Americans.

Sodium on Food Labels

Questions for You to Consider

  • What foods contain high levels of salt?
  • Americans get most of their sodium from processed and restaurant foods. Foods highest in sodium often include canned foods, pickled foods, cheese, deli meats, sauces (soy sauce and salad dressings) and many snack foods.
  • Where is salt content listed on a nutrition label?
  • Salt content is listed on a nutrition label under “sodium,” which can be found after fat and cholesterol. When reading a nutrition label, it’s important to check the serving size and number of servings per container. You can calculate the total sodium content of a food by multiplying the number of servings per container by the sodium content in one serving.

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Processed foods are responsible for 75% of the excessive sodium consumed by Americans.

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