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Make a New Assault on Salt

Most Americans get far too much than is healthy, experts say

SATURDAY, Aug. 25, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- If you're like most Americans, there's too much salt in your diet, which can lead to high blood pressure and increased risk of heart attack or stroke, experts warn.

The issue is so important that the American Medical Association (AMA), the American Heart Association, the American Dietetic Association and the U.S. National Institutes of Health have launched a campaign to cut Americans' salt intake by half. The AMA has even gone so far as to urge the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to withdraw salt's designation as "safe."

The average American consumes 4,000 to 6,000 milligrams of salt per day. The FDA recommends a limit of 2,400 mg a day, while the Institute of Medicine recommends a maximum of 1,500 mg a day.

In the April 19, 2007 issue of the British Medical Journal, two studies found that reducing salt intake by 25 percent to 35 percent could cut the risk of cardiovascular disease by as much as 25 percent and lower the risk of death by 20 percent.

Many people mistakenly believe that simply removing the salt shaker from the table will solve the problem, but many kinds of packaged, processed and restaurant foods contain high levels of salt. It's used for taste, to preserve foods, and provide texture.

Here are some tips on how you can reduce your salt intake:

  • Identify foods that have a high salt (sodium) content.
  • Limit your daily salt intake to between 1,500 and 2,400 milligrams.
  • When dining out, ask for unsalted menu items.
  • At home, use herbs and spices to season your food.
  • Remove salt from recipes when possible.
  • Don't put the salt shaker on your dining table.

More information

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more about dietary salt.

SOURCE: Belvoir Media Group, LLC, news release, July 31, 2007
Consumer News