"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Lower-income Americans are at higher risk of death from excess salt

April 2, 2024 – Eating foods high in salt has long been linked to an increased risk of hypertension and heart disease. However, much of the research on the results of salt has been conducted on middle- and upper-income populations.

A big proportion of low-income African Americans and white Americans exceed the present beneficial sodium intake, in accordance with a study. Why is that this population getting an excessive amount of salt?

“In this marginalized group, food access is almost always compatible,” said Lena Beal, registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Reduced access to healthier foods results in few options outside of convenience foods, an absence of education about healthier food options and problems affording quality food, she said

Salt is a obligatory nutrient, but a weight loss plan with an excessive amount of salt can result in death from heart disease.

A big proportion of low-income African Americans and white Americans in the brand new study exceeded the present beneficial sodium intake, “which may have contributed to their high mortality rates from cardiovascular disease,” said senior writer Xiao-Ou Shu, MD, PhD. a researcher within the Department of Medicine, Division of Epidemiology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville. Cardiovascular diseases are problems with the guts and blood vessels.

About 80% of the 65,000 people within the study consumed greater than the every day beneficial amount of salt (or sodium) of their weight loss plan. The federal government recommends 2,300 milligrams or less per day. In contrast, black Americans consumed a median of 4,512 milligrams of sodium per day of their weight loss plan, while low-income white Americans consumed a median of 4,041 milligrams every day.

Overall, excess sodium within the weight loss plan was related to roughly 10 to 30% of deaths from heart problems in the study, which was published online within the magazine on March 26 JAMA network opened.

Barriers to healthier foods

“It is a solid study. We see this often in our every day practice, so it's good to have a study that supports this,” said Beal, who was not involved in the research.

“We have our urban food deserts in Atlanta where there is no grocery store within walking distance or easily accessible by public transportation, so people end up shopping at the proverbial corner store,” said Beal, a cardiac nutritionist at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital.

“The barriers for this population are very real and noticeable when you interact with them every day,” she said.

According to the city of Atlanta In 2015, only 52% of city residents lived within half a mile of fresh food. This value increased to 75% by 2020. The city has set itself the goal of increasing this proportion to 85% by 2025.

Beal would like to see more action in the future. “We need to put some time, energy, research dollars and resources into these communities to increase their access to healthy, wholesome options at affordable prices.”

Excess salt, excessive risk of death

Shu and colleagues examined patients an average of 14 years after entry into the Southern Community Cohort Study. Between 2002 and 2009, people ages 40 to 79 were enrolled in the study, primarily from health centers that served underserved Americans in one of 12 Southern states. They were 72% black and 28% white, and about 83% lived in households with annual incomes of less than $25,000.

After accounting for other things that can increase the risk of heart disease, the researchers found that every 1,000 milligram increase in salt levels above the recommended 2,300 milligrams per day was associated with a higher risk of death.

For example, among black patients, the risk of dying from any cause increased by 3%, the risk of cardiovascular disease increased by 7%, and the chance of dying from heart disease increased by 8%. In white patients, the risk was even greater – the odds of dying from cardiovascular disease increased by 8% and the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease was 13% higher. This group was 55% more likely to die from heart failure.

And the problem doesn't just affect Americans of lower socioeconomic status. Americans as a whole consume high table salt content – an average of 3,400 milligrams per day.

Myths and possible solutions

People have several misconceptions about excess salt, Beal said. On the medical side, they tend to misunderstand the strong connection to heart disease, and on the nutritional side, people misunderstand how easy it is to combat it.

Avoiding excess salt does not mean eating tasteless foods. Instead of sprinkling the salt on top, consider adding herbs and spices, Beal suggested. For example, instead of eating rice that comes in a box with a seasoning packet that you cook and serve, choose rice in a bag that you cook and season yourself.

Shu said that “a dedicated program aimed toward educating concerning the health risks of high sodium intake and promoting healthy diets in these vulnerable populations ought to be a public health priority.”

Beal encourages people to make lifestyle changes in two ways, even in the event that they are financially constrained. “It depends on how much or how often you do something – the amount or the frequency.”

The “how much” means portion control. “How often” means how often you eat packaged products, convenience foods, or processed foods. Restaurant food may also contain unknown amounts of salt, especially fast food.

Beal suggested buying 100% fruit drinks as a substitute of dark sodas. Opt for smaller bottles – buy an 8 ounce drink as a substitute of 20 ounces. Buy ramen noodles and drain the liquid before eating. Additionally, limit condiments and sauces like barbecue sauce, ketchup, and mayonnaise that “contain excess sodium and sugar.”

Limits and strengths of the study

Shu and colleagues calculated dietary salt levels based on what people reported once after they participated within the Southern Community Cohort Study. Any changes over time could due to this fact not be taken into consideration. Additionally, self-reporting dietary salt could also be less accurate than testing blood or urine samples.

Beal cited the big sample size and concentrate on underserved communities as strengths.

When asked about next steps, Shu said her plans include studying how genes influence the way in which sodium affects health.