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Small Cuts in Salt Intake Spur Big Drops in Heart Trouble
Date:1/20/2010

U.S. study found just 3 fewer grams a day slashed heart disease, death rates

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 20 (HealthDay News) -- Slashing salt intake by just 3 grams a day -- the equivalent of half a teaspoon -- could dramatically cut the incidence of heart disease and death in U.S. adults, researchers claim.

According to the authors of a study in the Jan. 20 online edition of the New England Journal of Medicine, the projected reductions would be similar to the benefits accruing from a 50 percent drop in the smoking rate and a 5 percent decline in body mass index among obese adults.

"There's no question that Americans eat too much salt," said Dr. Robert Eckel, a professor of medicine at the University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine. "The idea of salt restriction and reducing blood pressure-related outcomes such as heart disease and stroke has been under consideration for some time. This group just simply took a map to it. The study certainly has scientific validity in terms of the importance of salt reduction for quality of life and longevity."

"Is everyone going to make the same change? Maybe not," said Karen Congro, director of the Wellness for Life Program at Brooklyn Hospital Center in New York City. "But even a small change would reduce the total number of strokes and heart attacks over time because the situation is so dire. It would also be beneficial to immediate health."

U.S. health agencies recommend that most adults limit their daily consumption of salt to less than 5.8 grams (2,300 milligrams [mg] of sodium), with 3.7 grams a day preferable.

The American Heart Association urges the average American to eat less than 2,300 mg of sodium daily, but also notes that older people, blacks and people with high blood pressure need to go even lower -- to under 1,500 mg per day.

Despite these recommendations, the average daily intake of salt is on the increase.

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