We all eat too much salt and it’s killing us

editorial image

A weekly column by Dr Miles Langdon of South Lincolnshire Clinical Commissioning Group, addressing topical health issues

There is strong evidence that high salt intake contributes to high blood pressure – the main cause of strokes and a major cause of heart attacks and heart failure which are the world’s most common causes.

Eating too much salt is also recognised as a factor in osteoporosis, stomach cancer, kidney disease and kidney stones, and it can aggravate the symptoms of asthma, Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes.

Almost everyone in the UK eats too much salt. The daily recommended amount is no more than six grams yet current average intake is 8.1g – with many people eating even more.

A three-gram reduction in average daily intake by adults would reduce annual deaths from cardiovascular disease by between 14,000 and 20,000, saving up to £350m in healthcare costs. Reducing daily salt intake by five grams could avert one and a quarter million deaths from stroke each year and almost three million deaths from cardiovascular disease.

It is important for people to be aware of how much salt they are consuming and to take simple steps to reduce their salt intake, including checking food labels, identifying high salt ingredients and cooking more food at home.

Most people in the UK eat too much salt without even realising it. Did you know about 75 per cent of the salt we eat is already in the food we buy such as bread, cereals and ready meals? Family staples such as bacon, cheese and pasta sauces are just a few items that we need to be more aware of. Just because you’ve bought ‘low-fat’ does not necessarily mean it is any healthier. Check nutrition labels on food packaging to find out how much salt it contains (there is usually a helpful daily amount guide to compare against).

Be careful when preparing food for babies, as they only need 1g of salt and their kidneys cannot cope with any more than that, so stay away from stock cubes or gravy as they both contain high salt levels.

This is important to remember if you are preparing food for all the family including any youngsters.

If you are watching your salt intake you can still enjoy dining out, simply take note of these helpful tips: Opt for a tomato based pasta sauce with vegetables rather than bacon, cheese or sausage. Go for plain rice rather than egg fried or pilau, and choose chicken pizza toppings rather than pepperoni. For more suggestions and further advice on reducing salt from your diet visit http://www.nhs.uk/livewell/goodfood/pag es/salt.aspx