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High salt consumption tied to 2.3M heart deaths

| Thursday, March 21, 2013, 6:00 p.m.

Eating too much salt contributed to 2.3 million heart-related deaths worldwide in 2010, and 40 percent of those deaths were premature, researchers reported on Thursday.

Fifteen percent of all deaths from heart attacks, stroke and other cardiovascular disease were caused by excessive salt, and most were in lower-income countries, according to a study presented at an American Heart Association meeting in New Orleans. The United States ranked 19th of the 30 largest countries studied for deaths because of excess salt.

Excess sodium consumption is a global problem: Seventy-five percent of the world's population eats nearly twice the daily recommended amount of salt, according to a separate study of 187 countries presented at the meeting. The American Heart Association advises limiting sodium to no more than 1,500 milligrams a day.

“National and global public-health measures, such as comprehensive sodium reduction programs, could potentially save millions of lives,” said Dariush Mozaffarian, one of the study's lead researchers and associate professor of medicine and epidemiology at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

In the study linking salt and heart deaths, researchers analyzed 247 surveys on sodium consumption by adults from 1990 to 2010 and determined how the levels of salt people were eating affected cardiovascular disease risks. No more than 1,000 milligrams per day of salt was considered ideal.

Nearly 1 million of the deaths, or 40 percent of the total, happened in people who were 69 years old or younger, according to the study. Sixty percent of the deaths were in men, and 40 percent were in women.

Eighty-four percent of the deaths were in low- and middle-income countries. Those with the highest death rates were Ukraine, Russia and Egypt, and the lowest were in Qatar, Kenya and United Arab Emirates.

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