World Heart Day 2014: Salt Reduction Saves Lives

Press Release

26 September, 2014 - On World Heart Day, the World Health Organization (WHO) calls on countries to take action on reducing population salt intake to maximum 5 grams per person per day, the equivalent of about one teaspoon. Children should consume even less.

Salt reduction to prevent and control NCDs

In the Pacific, the main cause of premature mortality is cardiovascular diseases. High salt intake contributes to raised blood pressure and hypertension which is a key risk factor for heart disease and stroke. High blood pressure is a public health problem in many Pacific island countries and areas. In some countries, the prevalence is as high as 45% of the adult population. Reducing salt intake in the region would reduce blood pressure, saving thousands of lives every year.

Dr Yunguo Liu, WHO Representative in the South Pacific and Director of WHO Division of Pacific Technical Support (DPS) underscored that countries in the Pacific have agreed to a global target of salt reduction of 30% by 2025. To achieve this target, urgent action is needed. In some countries, up to 80 per cent of salt intake comes from processed foods such as noodles, snacks and chips, bottled sauces, canned meats and fish, and ready-made meals.

Reduce salt in processed foods

“Reducing population salt intake requires multisectoral collaboration including involvement of the private sector” Dr Liu continued.

Countries in the Pacific are starting to make progress on salt reduction. In the region’s continuous efforts in reducing population salt intake, WHO recommends implementation of:

  • policies to ensure that food manufacturers incrementally reduce the levels of salt in food products and meals;
  • healthy eating environments (that promote salt reduction) in public places such as schools, hospitals, workplaces and public institutions;
  • clear food labelling so consumers can easily understand the level of salt in products;
  • WHO’s recommendations on the marketing of foods and non-alcoholic beverages to children.

Reduce salt intake at home

Dr Liu emphasizes that “Individuals and families also need to be proactive in reducing their salt intake”. Some practical action individuals and families can take includes:

  • reading food labels when buying processed food to choose the product with the lowest salt content;
  • asking for products with less salt when buying ready-to-eat food;
  • removing salt dispensers and bottled sauces from dining tables;
  • limiting the amount of salt added during cooking; and
  • limiting frequent consumption of high salt products such as instant noodles, soy sauce, snacks and chips

Cardiovascular risk assessment

WHO Package of Essential NCD interventions offers a set of cost effective and evidence based interventions for NCD management in primary health care. WHO is providing technical support to implement this package in Pacific Islands according to the national context. Cardiovascular risk scoring which is part of the PEN can help to assess the risk for a heart disease/stroke in the next 10 years and based on this appropriate interventions can be provided.

More information
Dr. Cherian Varghese Team Leader
Pacific NCD & Health through the Life-Course
WHO DPS Office
Plaza One Level 4 Downtown Boulevard, 33 Ellery Street, Suva, Fiji
Ph: +679 3234 127

Peter Sousa Hoejskov
Technical Officer – Food Safety & NCD
WHO Division of Pacific Technical Support (DPS)
Tel: +679 323 4146