Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the world’s number one cause of death, and the burden is only growing. Today, on World Heart Day, we know that CVD is responsible for 17.3 million deaths per year and is projected to cause 23 million deaths per year by 2030.
To raise awareness and promote discussion for solutions, the World Heart Federation worked to establish today, Sept. 29, as World Heart Day. The focus is on promoting heart-healthful environments so individuals can make heart-healthful choices where they live, work, and play.
The World Health Organization (WHO) is taking this opportunity to promote salt reduction. WHO targets a global reduction of salt use by 30 percent by 2025. For individuals, they recommend less than 5 grams (about one teaspoon) per day. Currently, the average person consumes around 10 grams per day.
How can we reduce salt consumption in the United States?
A lot of people likely put fast food consumption and a lack of home-cooked meals as key drivers for high salt consumption in the United States. But the issue is more complex than that.
A study published this summer highlights how time pressures, tradeoffs to save money, and the burden of pleasing others make the idealized vision of home-cooked meals difficult for a lot of families. In an interview, one of the study’s authors states her surprise in seeing how often people were cooking at home, even among the poorest families. The desire and will for making home-cooked meals was not lacking. Instead what was lacking was resources for fresh produce, kitchen tables and chairs, and utensils.
We definitely require a multifaceted approach to reducing salt consumption, and I wonder how we can best use partnerships with private companies to create an environment that benefits both the companies and society. Last week, the three largest soda companies pledged to cut the number of sugary drink calories consumed by Americans by 20 percent by 2025. Part of the plan is to market water, smaller sizes, and diet drinks and promote balance.
How can we create similar partnerships to reduce sodium intake? What would they look like?
Our member hospitals are great examples of what is possible. Health Leads connects patients with basic resources, such as food and heat, and partners with several of our members, including Contra Costa Regional Medical Center and Bellevue Hospital Center. Truman Medical Centers has a Healthy Harvest Mobile Market to reduce the barriers to fresh produce by taking a proactive approach to go into the community.
These are just a few of the many examples of how essential hospitals are embracing the tenets of World Heart Day by creating a heart-healthful environment inside and outside of a hospital’s four walls.
What other innovative initiatives have you seen to promote heart-healthful choices? What suggestions do you have to reduce salt intake? Share them below and on twitter with the hashtag #lesssalt.