Reduce harm to the heart and overall health by reducing dietary salt intake

Reduce harm to the heart and overall health by reducing dietary salt intake

People with hypertension should consume not more than 6 g of sodium chloride/day

New Delhi, 13th February 2019: Studies indicate that high salt intake can have detrimental effects on blood pressure. Over time, this can lead to hypertension and cardiovascular diseases. To lower the risk of developing a heart disease by 25% and that of mortality due to this by 20%, it is imperative to restrict dietary intake of salt. It is therefore an effective harm reduction strategy as also discussed in the first-ever harm reduction conference organized by the HCFI and IJCP on 30th January 2019 at the India Habitat Centre, New Delhi.

As per recent figures by the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), salt intake among Indian adult Indians is high. It exceeds the levels recommended by the WHO. In Delhi and Haryana, it is 9.5 g per day and 10.4 g per day in Andhra Pradesh. This can be a risk factor especially in those with a family history of high blood pressure or heart disease.

Speaking about this, Padma Shri Awardee, Dr KK Aggarwal, President, HCFI, said, “The Indian diet is high in sodium and their salt consumption is one of the biggest contributing factors for non-communicable diseases. Excessive salt over time can cause irreparable damage to the kidneys as well. High salt intake also causes a rise in blood pressure, a condition known as hypertension. High blood pressure can harden the arteries, further decreasing the flow of blood and oxygen. An impairment in the flow of oxygen, to an organ such as your face, can cause your skin to dry and wrinkles faster which can make one look less youthful- not to mention the other health effects.”

An adult must not consume more than 5 g salt in a day, recommends the WHO. Researchers and policy-makers around the world stress on reducing salt intake to control hypertension because its key triggers— stress and faulty lifestyle—are difficult to control.

Adding further, Dr XX, said, “The terms salt and sodium are often used interchangeably; however, they mean different things. Salt comprises sodium and chloride. It is the sodium in salt that can be bad for your heart. While salt is essential for life, it is important to consume the right kind and maintain a proper salt-to-potassium ratio. It is noteworthy that more than 75% of the sodium we consume comes from packaged and restaurant foods.”

Some recommendations

  • Reduce salt intake as much as possible, lower the better. Add only normal amounts of salt when cooking or use alternatives to salt.
  • Preserved and packaged foods have maximum salt; reduce them as much as possible
  • Read the labels when shopping. Look for lower sodium in cereals, crackers, pasta sauces, canned vegetables, or any foods with low-salt options. Or, eat less processed and packaged foods.
  • Ask about salt added to food, especially at restaurants. Most restaurant chefs will omit salt when requested.
  • Remember the word ‘Na’, which is present in many drugs, soda etc.
  • Nothing can be preserved without adding salt to it, therefore beware of processed and frozen fruits.
  • Remember that it takes three months of a salt-free diet to get adjusted to it and ultimately start liking it.