Salt: The Forgotten Killer

salt shakerFrom 20 to 26 March 2017, the group Consensus Action on Salt & Health (CASH) will hold its annual National Salt Awareness Week with the theme of Salt: The Forgotten Killer.

CASH have the support of 25 scientific members and were formed in 1996 due to huge concern with salt and its effects on health, with their belief little was being done by the Government to curb the growing trend of high salt consumption around the nation.

Throughout National Salt Awareness Week – the 18th of its kind – the campaign group will look to reach out to everyone across Britain, offering a reminder that high salt intake can cause an increase in blood pressure. Also known as ‘hypertension’, high blood pressure affects over a third of UK adults and can lead to strokes and heart attacks.

How much salt do we need?

Adults should consume no more than 6g of salt a day – equivalent to about one teaspoon. Children should eat even less than this.

The daily recommended maximum amount of salt for children eat depends on how old they are.

  • 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)

Unfortunately, the average UK salt consumption is still far too high at approximately 8.1g – 8.8g/day, meaning there is plenty of work to do in order to bring down salt intake levels to reach the maximum daily intake of 6g for adults.

Therefore, CASH are urging the entire food industry to bolster efforts to reformulate manufactured foods in order to decrease their salt content, aiming to meet the 2017 salt reduction targets. Moreover, CASH want the government to up their game to make sure the UK salt reduction programme carries on long-term.

Reducing the nation’s salt intake is particularly important for groups such as CASH because high blood pressure often has no symptoms, and it is generally believed that around one in every three people who have high blood pressure are actually unaware they have it.

If you, like so many others, have a diet that is high in sodium – contained in salt – this can lead to serious health problems. Sodium increases blood pressure as it causes the body to keep hold of excess fluid and blood volume increases, creating an added burden on the heart with increased pressure in the arteries.

As mentioned previously, those with high blood pressure are at risk of developing heart disease or suffering a stroke. Adults in the 40-74 age bracket will at some point be sent a letter from their GP or local authority inviting them for a NHS Health Check, comprising of a blood pressure check.

High salt foods

Some food products are far worse than others when it comes to their salt content. To cut down on salt, eat the following foods less often or consider smaller portions of them:

  • anchovies
  • bacon
  • cheese
  • gravy granules
  • ham
  • olives
  • pickles
  • prawns
  • salami
  • salted and dry-roasted nuts
  • salt fish
  • smoked meat and fish
  • soy sauce
  • stock cubes
  • yeast extract

The CASH website states “Over the week we will be reminding people that salt raises blood pressure, leading to strokes and heart attacks, and that by simply eating less we can lower our chances of dying prematurely.  We will be emphasising the need for further work if we are to reach the 6g per day salt target. Many foods still have salt added to them, even foods that don’t necessarily taste salty.

“Through continued collaboration with the government and food industry, and increased awareness and education to the public, we are aiming to improve the nation’s diet, and in doing so save many more lives and millions of pounds in health care costs.”

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