Small salt reduction could save thousands of lives

UK Health experts say that thousands of deaths could be prevented every year if consumers were more aware of exactly how much salt is in the food they are eating in comparison against their daily recommended limits.

British health professionals voiced their concerns about the UK’s ignorance to the dangers of too much salt after the publication of a damning U.S.-based study that linked the high salt content in processed foods to the obesity crisis in America.

British GP Ian Campbell, medical director of charity Weight Concern, said: “The same problems exist in the UK, with heart disease a well-recognised consequence of excessive salt. Greater awareness of the harm salt can do might help people choose to reduce their intake. Processed food is high in fat, sugar and salt. Food manufacturers have significantly reduced salt content, but it’s still too high. The average person has no idea of the quantities of salt in their diet – simply because they’re not adding it, the manufacturers are. People need to be aware the food we eat does affect our health directly. If you don’t know what’s in the food you are about to eat, ask.”

High levels of salt in a person’s diet can raise your blood pressure and hypertension (high blood pressure) means you are at an increased risk of health problems such as heart disease and stroke. Doctors are adamant that if consumers paid more attention to food labels, an incredible 25,000 lives could be saved each year.

Unfortunately though, many Brits are still unaware of theirs or their children’s daily recommended maximum intake, or even any rough idea of how much salt they are currently taking in.

According to health officials, if the average salt intake was reduced by merely a single gram, this could save 6,000 lives and £1.5billion annually. If the average consumption however dropped by four grams, approximately 25,000 deaths could be averted each year. British Heart Foundation statistics say that on average, men consume around 9.7g of salt a day and women fare a little better and average 7.7g – but still way above the recommended limit.

Dr. Campbell added: “Salt is a big problem in the UK too. It’s a silent killer. Over time consuming too much of it increases the risk of high blood pressure, which can lead to heart attacks and strokes. About 80 per cent of our salt intake comes from processed foods, so it can be difficult to avoid. Many people are unaware of where salt is hidden, such as bread, soups, ready meals, even breakfast cereals and mayonnaise. The Government approach has been to encourage food manufacturers to modify the amount of salt in their products. There has been a reduction but it is taking too long. The Food Standards Agency should consider setting mandatory maximum levels for salt.”

The recommended daily salt intake for adults has been 6g for many years, (around one full teaspoon), although the World Health Organization have spoken many times in recent years stating that at the very most, 5g should be the maximum intake each day.  However, current NHS guidance still sets the current daily limits to:

. 1 to 3 years: 2g salt a day (0.8g sodium).

. 4 to 6 years: 3g salt a day (1.2g sodium).

. 7 to 10 years: 5g salt a day (2g sodium).

. 11 years and over: 6g salt a day (2.4g sodium).

One of the biggest factors why people suffer with heart disease or stroke is because of high cholesterol. Salt itself does not contribute to high cholesterol levels, but consuming too much salt can cause high blood pressure that in turn is attributed to heart disease and stroke. Therefore, it is worth paying attention to the salt levels in your food.

To maintain healthy cholesterol levels you can also make other positive lifestyle changes to reduce risk factors, including: quitting smoking, lose weight if you are overweight, and limit the fat in your diet. All these will benefit blood pressure as well as cholesterol. Medication such as statins may be required if dietary alterations alone are not enough to have an effect, and for suitable patients they are obtainable from Medical Specialists Pharmacy at low prices. For more information about Crestor (rosuvastatin), Lipitor (atorvastatin), and Generic Atorvastatin, visit the Health and Lifestyle area of the Medical Specialists website.

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