Bottom Line for a Healthy Heart

February 8th, 2010


New England Journal of MedicinePublic health advocates know all too well that prevention is a tough sell. That’s why a study recently published by the New England Journal of Medicine is garnering unprecedented attention. The findings quantify the heart-health benefits of lowering salt intake – and suddenly everyone is talking.

The Bibbins-Domingo study calls for authorities to hold the salt: 80% of the salt in our diet comes from processed foods. Unless we avoid these foods altogether, we have little control over how much salt we take in. Indeed, if salt remains unregulated, the fear is that levels in our foods will increase exponentially. This puts our heart health at great risk.

Reducing salt intake is the recommended lifestyle change for those with high blood pressure (hypertension), which ultimately leads to heart disease and stroke. Heart disease is the number one killer of men and women in the U.S. Researchers of this study concluded that a half a teaspoon (3g) reduction of salt in our diets would reduce the new cases of heart disease by 60,000 – 120,000, of stroke by 32,000 – 66,000, and heart attacks by 54,000 – 99,000. These are huge benefits for our health, similar to what could be achieved if we cut down tobacco use by 50%!

Poor diet is just one of the causes that contribute to heart disease. We need to eat better, move more, stop smoking, and be aware of our risk factors to maintain a healthy heart (for innovative preventative programs visit HealthyMonday.org/programs). Reducing salt in our foods is one prevention measure to help curb the national heart disease epidemic. Yet the larger question remains, how do we as individuals become accustomed to eating less salt?