Beware! That extra pinch of salt could give you heart disease | mumbai | Hindustan Times
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Beware! That extra pinch of salt could give you heart disease

On the occasion of World Heart Day this year, the WHO is stressing on the need to reduce the consumption of salt, which is linked to approximately 2.5 million deaths per year from cardiovascular diseases.

mumbai Updated: Sep 29, 2014 17:32 IST

Approximately one of every 10 deaths caused by cardiovascular diseases worldwide in 2010 could be attributed to sodium consumption above ideal levels, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) has concluded. Sodium is a major constituent of common salt.

On the occasion of World Heart Day this year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) is stressing on the need to reduce the consumption of salt, which is linked to approximately 2.5 million deaths per year from cardiovascular diseases.

The theme for World Heart Day this year is ‘heart choices not hard choices’ and looks at the benefits of reducing salt consumption to improve health and reduce avoidable deaths from cardiovascular diseases. “High sodium intake in one’s diet changes body receptors in such a manner that it leads to high systolic blood pressure, which in turn starts damaging the heart,” said Dr Vijay Agarwal, consultant cardiologist at Fortis Hospital.

The correlation between increased salt consumption and raised blood pressure has been established well. The raised blood pressure caused by consuming too much salt is known to damage the arteries leading to the heart. At first, it may cause a slight reduction in the amount of blood reaching the heart. This may lead to angina, a sharp pain experienced in the chest when one is active.

The NEJM study, titled Global Sodium Consumption and Death from Cardiovascular Causes, studied data from 187 countries in the world, for the year 2010.

Globally, 1.65 million annual deaths from cardiovascular causes were attributed to sodium intake above the reference level. About 61.9% of these deaths occurred in men, while 38.1% occurred in women. Four of every five deaths (84.3%) occurred in low and middle-income countries, while two of every five deaths (40.4%) were premature, occurring before the patient reached 70 years of age, the study said.

According to the NEJM study, people consume an average of 3.95gm of sodium a day, worldwide. And though there are regional daily differences ranging from about 2,000 milligrams to 5,500 milligrams, the global average is nearly double what the WHO recommends.

The WHO member states have agreed on a voluntary global target for a 30% relative reduction in the intake of salt, with the aim of achieving a target of less than 5gm per day, by 2025. This amount of salt contains two grams of sodium. They have also agreed on a voluntary global target for a 25% relative reduction in the prevalence of raised blood pressure.

“If we can bring down the salt consumption to even half of what we normally take, which would still be higher than the WHO standard, we would be able to reduce risk of cardiovascular diseases by at least 30-40%,” said Dr Ashwin B Mehta, director of cardiology, Jaslok Hospital.