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Reducing Salt Use Reduces Risk Of Heart Disease For Texans

Aug 17, 2007
Researchers from the American Dietetic Association report that reducing the amount of salt in your diet can lower your risk of developing heart disease by 25 percent, and the risk of dying from heart disease by 20 percent.

Salt or sodium has long been known for its adverse effects on blood pressure levels, particularly among people with high blood pressure. Among hypertensive individuals in Dallas, Houston and elsewhere in Texas, lowering sodium is pretty well established as a key way to lower blood pressure. Now, it looks like reducing sodium also has a similar effect on cardiovascular disease.

In the 2007 study, people from two trials completed in the 1990s were analyzed regarding the effect of reduced salt consumption on blood pressure. All the participants in the trials had "high-normal" blood pressure -- sometimes called "pre-hypertension" -- and were at increased risk of developing heart disease.

The first trial consisted of 744 people; the second had 2,382 participants. People in both studies reduced their salt intake by about 25 percent to 35 percent. Each also included a control group that did not reduce salt intake.

The researchers found that those who reduced their salt intake were 25 percent less likely to develop cardiovascular disease 10 to 15 years after the trials ended. There was also a 20 percent lower death rate from cardiovascular disease among those who cut their salt consumption.

One expert believes this study successfully argues for reducing salt intake. "Finally, a new affirmation that salt may be more harmful than its casual use or overuse warrants," said Dr. Christine Gerbstadt, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. The pendulum may soon shift back to stricter sodium intake guidelines should this study be reproduced in another study of similar rigor in design and results.

Experts noted that a prudent sodium intake is best achieved by avoiding salted, salt-cured and salt-smoked foods such as lunch meat, hot dogs, ham, olives, pickles and regular salted canned foods, including soups, and other prepared foods, which often use more salt than home-made equivalents.

Dr. David Katz, director of the Yale University School of Medicine's Prevention Research Center, said, "Our food supply makes meaningful reductions in salt intake all but impossibly difficult for most people. The salt we shake onto our food contributes far less to most diets than salt processed into foods. Even foods we would never think of as salty, such as breakfast cereals, cookies, and even some soft drinks, often contain copious additions of sodium."

This new study hints at the size of the potential benefit from widespread salt reduction, Katz said. "But advice about reducing salt intake can only get us so far. To see the benefits highlighted in this paper play out at the population level will require modification of the food supply, so that eating less salt requires a lot less work," he said.

Even given the results of this study, you shouldn't avoid salt altogether. The body needs a certain amount of sodium to function properly. Salt is a commonly occurring mineral, the technical name of which is sodium chloride. It is the sodium part of salt that is important to an individual's overall health.

Sodium helps to maintain the concentration of body fluids at correct levels. It also plays a central role in the transmission of electrical impulses in the nerves, and helps cells to take up nutrients.

Just remember -- what you put in your body when you're young will certainly affect your health when you get older. Eventually, it will also affect your wallet.
About the Author
Pat Carpenter writes for Precedent Insurance Company. Precedent puts a new spin on health insurance. Learn more at Precedent.com
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