Heart attack prevention will go a long way by simply reducing salt intake — by only one half a teaspoon. This equates to 1,200 mg of sodium. Most people eat way more than 1,200 mg of sodium a day, often well over 3,000 or 4,000 mg.
A study conducted by the University of California, San Francisco, Stanford University Medical Center and Columbia University Medical Center confirms the finding that just about 100,000 heart attacks in America can be prevented with this simple salt reduction. The report is in the Jan. 20, 2010 online New England Journal of Medicine.
Cutting out 3 grams’ worth of salt a day can have a dramatically positive effect on health, says Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, PhD, MD, lead author of the study. The translation is that this salt reduction would mean 11 percent fewer diagnoses per year of new heart disease; plus, heart attacks would be down by 13 percent; strokes by 8 percent; and 4 percent fewer deaths. These seemingly small numbers are actually very statistically significant.
“In addition to its independent benefits on blood pressure, reducing salt intake can enhance the effects of most anti-hypertensive agents and reduce complications associated with diabetes, obesity and kidney disease,” explains Glenn M. Chertow, MD, study co-author. One gram of salt equals .4 grams’ sodium.
With today’s heavily processed foods, it’s very easy to ingest 4,000 mg of sodium every day – the intake for the average U.S. man, and a major risk for heart attack. It’s a myth that most salt or sodium intake is from the salt shaker on the table. The vast majority of sodium intake is from processed foods, particularly microwavable dinners and microwavable side dishes; canned soups and vegetables; luncheon meats; cheeses; meal replacement drinks; orange juice in a carton; and various condiments.
Daily sodium intake adds up quite easily, also coming from cereal, hot dogs, munchies, cookies, baked goods and beverages. Sodium turns up in foods you’d never think would contain it, including “healthy” foods like microwavable vegetable dishes.
If you want to add yet one more way to help prevent heart attacks to your heart attack prevention roster, limiting daily sodium intake to under 2,300 mg is the way to go. Beware of the “serving size” on cans, bags and boxes. The “serving size” with 500 mg of sodium may be only one-third the can, bag or box, even though the package appears to be one serving!