SPECIAL REPORT—Many consumers often reach for the saltshaker before even tasting of their food. Furthermore, many pre-prepared and processed foods contain high quantities of sodium that may go unnoticed for the sake of convenience or neglected with little concern for long-term health. For either reason, consumers should intently watch their sodium intake due to the potential for serious health consequences down the road.


Sodium intake can lead to high-blood pressure, which is a primary cause for heart disease and stroke.  These diseases rank first and third respectively as leading causes of death in the United States.


The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has discovered that Americans are consuming more than double the appropriate amounts of sodium daily. The new study reveals that more than 2 out of 3 adults are in population groups that should consume no more than 1,500 milligrams (mg) per day of sodium.  During 2005-2006, the estimated average intake of sodium in 2 years and older Americans was 3,436 mg per day!


“It’s important for people to eat less salt.  People who adopt a heart healthy eating pattern that includes a diet low in sodium and rich in potassium and calcium can improve their blood pressure,” said Darwin R. Labarthe, M.D., Ph.D., director of the CDC’s Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention.  “Reducing sodium intake can prevent or delay increases in blood pressure for everyone.’’


“People need to know their recommended daily sodium limit and take action to reduce sodium intake,” Labarthe said.  Most of the sodium we eat comes from packaged, processed and restaurant foods. CDC along with other HHS agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration, will be working with major food manufacturers and chain restaurants to reduce sodium levels in the food supply.


The study, which appeared in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The survey is designed to assess the health and nutritional status of adults and children in the United States. 


This findings are the first to use national data to show that 69.2 percent of the adult population belongs to a specific group that should aim to consume no more than 1,500 mg of sodium per day. This group is comprised of persons with diagnosed high blood pressure, blacks or middle-aged and older adults (more than 40 years old).


Reducing sodium consumption has significant benefits for improving heart health.  Nationwide, there are an estimated 16 million men and women who have heart disease. Another approximate 5.8 million have had a stroke.


The CDC recommends consumers include more fruits and vegetables in their diet, ask that no salt be added when eating out and becoming more aware of the food labels on food products at the grocery store before purchase.


For more information about heart disease and strokes, visit the CDC online at www.cdc.gov/dhdsp.