Salt is perhaps the deadliest ingredient in our food supply, causing high blood pressure, heart attacks, stroke, kidney disease, and other health problems.
The forgotten killer
Salt—sodium chloride—is one of the deadliest ingredients in the U.S. food supply. While a small amount is safe and necessary for health, the amount of salt in the typical American diet—about a teaspoon and a half a day—is a major cause of high blood pressure, or hypertension. Currently, upwards of 70 million—more than one in four— Americans suffer from that condition, which increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. Together coronary heart disease and stroke kill about 500,000 people annually in the United States. An additional one in three Americans has prehypertension, meaning elevated blood pressure that is not yet in the hypertensive range. Non-Hispanic black adults have the highest prevalence of hypertension in the United States (42.1%) compared to non-Hispanic white, Asian, and Hispanic adults (28%, 24.7%, and 26%, respectively).
A recent study estimated the benefits that would result from reducing sodium consumption, both immediately and gradually. Immediately reducing average sodium consumption levels from the current average of almost 3,500 mg per day to between 2,200 mg to 1,500 mg per day—about a teaspoon or less—would save about 700,000 to 1.2 million lives over 10 years. A more-achievable, gradual 40 percent reduction in consumption over 10 years would save 280,000 to 500,000 lives. Another study estimated that a reduction of 1,200 mg of sodium per day would save 44,000 to 92,000 lives and $10 billion to $24 billion in health-care costs annually.