Go easy on the salt to protect your heart


Every year World Salt Awareness Week (March 9 to 15) reminds us that less is more, and that it’s good to indulge in some pleasures in moderation.

The health benefits are obvious we have to add less salt to our meals, as a high-salt intake raises blood pressure and increases the risk of developing high blood pressure, a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease (heart attacks).

The SA Primary Healthcare Standard Treatment Guideline by the National Department of Health (NDoH) requires a restriction of salt intake to at least one teaspoon, which is 6g per day.

This is for effective blood pressure control in patients with hypertension, and not stopping intake of salt altogether.

The more salt we consume, the more we put ourselves at risk of heart disease and strokes, which annually claims the lives of more than 78 000 South Africans.

South Africa passed the mandated sodium regulations in 2016, with the goal of reducing average salt intake by .85g and to reduce deaths from cardiovascular disease by 11 percent.

Excess salt intake causes high blood pressure and leads to an increased chance of heart attacks, stroke and death.

A recent analysis concluded that reducing salt consumption by 30% globally could save 40 million lives over the next 25 years.

“Cardiovascular disease kills more people each year than all infectious diseases combined, but it remains neglected by many health systems and the global health community,” said Dr Tom Frieden, president and chief executive of Resolve to Save Lives.

Another reason to monitor your salt intake is that too much salt is directly associated with raised blood pressure, which might eventually lead to hypertension.

The SA Demographic and Health Survey 2016 reported that 46% of women and 44% of men age 15 years and older have hypertension, which makes them vulnerable to having a stroke or suffering heart disease

Irene Labuschagne, a dietitian from the Nutrition Information Centre at Stellenbosch University advises that people take salt and salty condiments off the table in order to avoid taking too much salt.

“Do not add extra salt to food at the table. Don’t be fooled into thinking that ‘fancier’ types of salt are healthy. Pink, black, rock, crystal or flake salt all have the same effect on your blood pressure as table salt.

“Less refined salts might contain more nutrients than everyday table salt, although in such small amounts it could easily be sourced from other foods in your diet. Bigger crystals also taste less salty, and you are likely to add more than refined salt,” says Labuschagne.