The Ingredient That’s Causing Millions of Deaths Worldwide

Excess dietary sodium increases blood pressure, dramatically increasing incidence of heart attack & stroke

Salt on Cutting BoardThis article originally appeared on Live in the Now.

Enlightened, health-conscious individuals now understand that heart disease is not only preventable, but also treatable in all but the most advanced stages.

Lifestyle modifications including elimination of processed and fried foods, smoking cessation, stress reduction and adequate physical activity are among some of the changes that promote heart health and dramatically lower future disease risk.

Excess dietary sodium consumption is a known risk factor for early heart disease, but researchers now report that salt, largely coming from the disproportionate amount of processed foods that many people eat, is killing millions around the globe. Scientists from the Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health now report the result of their research that found how eating too much salt contributed to 2.3 million deaths from heart attacks, strokes and other heart-related diseases throughout the world in 2010, representing 15 percent of all deaths due to these causes.

Researchers presented their findings to the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology and Prevention/Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism 2013 Scientific Sessions. Lead study author, Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian commented, “National and global public health measures, such as comprehensive sodium reduction programs, could potentially save millions of lives.” To conduct their study, scientists analyzed data from 247 surveys of adult sodium intake, sorted by age, gender, and region spanning 50 countries over a 20 year period.

The team then determined how the amount of sodium people were consuming was affecting their risk for cardiovascular disease in a large cohort of 107 randomized trials that determined the impact of sodium consumption on elevation of blood pressure. They determined that a daily sodium intake of 1,000 mg was optimal. The current target in the U.S. for adults is 2,300 mg per day, and many people who eat regularly at fast food restaurants and prepare meals using processed and refined foods can consume 3,500 to 5,000 mg per day, placing them at considerable risk for chronic vascular disease.

Researchers determined that nearly one million deaths occurring during the study period were due to excessive sodium consumption. This represented forty percent of all deaths recorded, as 60 percent occurred in men and 40 percent in women. The U.S. ranked nineteenth out of the thirty largest countries where 429 deaths per million (1 in 10) were attributable to excess sodium intake. Nutrition experts note that most sodium enters our diet from processed foods and not from salt added as a condiment.

Eliminating canned and processed food consumption, and closely monitoring salt intake could prevent the early demise of millions worldwide over the next decade.

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