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Updated 25 March 2013

Salt causes 2.3 million deaths a year

A study finds over-consumption may have contributed to 15% of heart-related fatalities in 2010.

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Over-abundant salt intake was a factor in nearly 2.3 million deaths from heart attacks, strokes and other heart-related causes that occurred worldwide in 2010, according to a new study. That number represents 15% of all heart-related deaths that year, the researchers said.

Nearly 1 million deaths (40%) caused by eating too much salt were considered premature, occurring in people aged 69 and younger, the study found. 60% of the deaths were in men.

The United States ranked 19th out of the 30 largest countries, with 429 deaths per million adults caused by eating too much salt. That works out to one in 10 of all heart-related deaths in the United States, the study authors noted.

Heart attacks and strokes

Heart attacks caused 42% of the deaths worldwide, while strokes caused 41%. The rest of the deaths were caused by other types of cardiovascular disease. 84% of the deaths were in low- and middle-income countries. (The United States is considered a high-income nation.)

Among the 30 largest countries, those with the highest death rates due to excess salt consumption per million adults were: Ukraine, 2 109; Russia, 1 803; and Egypt, 836.

Among all countries, those with the lowest death rates related to salt consumption per million adults were: Qatar, 73; Kenya, 78; and United Arab Emirates, 134.

"National and global public health measures, such as comprehensive sodium reduction programs, could potentially save millions of lives," lead author Dr Dariush Mozaffarian, an associate professor of medicine and epidemiology at Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health, said in an AHA news release.

Although the study found an association between high salt intake and higher risk of death, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.

More information

The US National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute outlines how to reduce sodium in your diet.

 
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