Excess Salt a Factor in 2.3 Million Deaths Annually Worldwide

THURSDAY, March 21 (HealthDay News) -- Overabundant 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 percent of all heart-related deaths that year, the researchers said.

Nearly 1 million deaths (40 percent) caused by eating too much salt were considered premature, occurring in people aged 69 and younger, the study found. Sixty percent 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 caused 42 percent of the deaths worldwide, while strokes caused 41 percent. The rest of the deaths were caused by other types of cardiovascular disease. Eighty-four percent 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.

The study was scheduled for presentation Thursday at an American Heart Association (AHA) meeting in New Orleans. The data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

"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 U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute outlines how to reduce sodium in your diet.

SOURCE: American Heart Association, news release, March 21, 2013

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