The American Heart Association has issued a call to action for the public, health professionals, the foodservice industry and the government to put forth a greater effort in reducing sodium intake.

Its advisory was published in “Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association” and calls for the consumption of no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium a day. Any more could facilitate elevated blood pressure and increased risk of stroke, heart attacks and kidney disease.

Elevated blood pressure, or hypertension, will affect approximately 90 percent of all Americans at some point in their life.

Currently, the average sodium consumption in this country is more than twice the recommended 1,500 milligrams. A majority, 77 percent, of that consumption comes from restaurant foods, as well as packaged and processed foods.

"Even a modest decline in intake – say 400 mg per day – would produce benefits that are substantial and warrant implementation," according to the report.

Although the suggested intake of sodium was 2,300 milligrams a day as recently as 2005, guidelines were changed to 1,500 mg earlier this year, per the recommendation of the secretaries of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The updated data earned support from the Centers for Disease Control, as well.

The American Heart Association's 2020 impact goals – to improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20 percent while reducing deaths from cardiovascular diseases and stroke by 20 percent – include a population-wide reduction of sodium consumption to less than 1,500 mg.

Working toward this effort, the American Heart Association is part of the National Salt Reduction Initiative, which is working with the food industry to reduce sodium content in packaged and restaurant food.

Many chains joined the initiative right away, including Au Bon Pain, Starbucks, Uno Chicago Grill and Subway. Other foodservice companies signed up, as well, including Boar's Head, FreshDirect, Goya, Hain Celestial, Heinz, Kraft, LiDestri, Mars Food, McCain Foods, Red Gold, Unilever and White Rose.

 

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