Eating Less Salt Can Save Lots of Lives

How much salt do you eat? Most likely a lot more than you think. My readers should (hopefully!) remember my previous discussions on how a high-salt diet can raise blood pressure; now, a large study, just published in the New England Journal of Medicine, suggests that if everyone in America consumed half a teaspoon less salt per day, there would be between 54,000 and 99,000 fewer heart attacks each year and between 44,000 and 92,000 fewer deaths. As they affirm, “lowering the amount of salt people eat by even a small amount could reduce cases of heart disease, stroke and heart attacks as much as reductions in smoking, obesity and cholesterol levels. ” (Big Benefits Are Seen From Eating Less Salt). Here’s more from the New York Times summary:

Dr. Bibbins-Domingo said that for many people the decrease in blood pressure would be modest, which is why, she said, “many physicians have thrown up their hands and said, ‘I’m not going to advise my patients to reduce salt because it’s too hard for patients and the benefits for any individual are small.’

“But small incremental changes in salt, such as lowering salt in tomato sauce or breads and cereals by a small amount, would achieve small changes in blood pressure that would have a measurable effect across the whole population,” she said. “That’s the reason why this intervention works better than just targeting smokers.”

There’s an interesting graph below which shows the astonishingly high average salt intake by age group; males 14-50 ate on average of 10 grams a day! That rate was far higher than in women. This clearly is a health priority that involves the need for public measures, since most intake is from processed foods and not that tiny salt shaker on your table. People may have read recently that the NYC mayor is forcing massive reductions in salt in the city, and I think that momentum will carry to other cities as well.

One thing to note; yes, lowering your salt can lower your blood pressure by a couple degrees, but on an individual level it may not be very impressive or noticeable; however, on a population level that slight change will save a lot of lives.

Follow me on:
Twitter @RichardStCyrMD
Facebook @BainbridgeBabaDoc

Leave a Reply