Health Ministry: Time to stem salt consumption

Health Ministry launches campaign to reduce country’s salt consumption as WHO urges reduction in blood pressure.

Salt marshes at the Kishon River banks 370 (photo credit: Amit Mendelssohn)
Salt marshes at the Kishon River banks 370
(photo credit: Amit Mendelssohn)
As the World Health Organization marked World Health Day on Sunday with the theme of encouraging the prevention and control of hypertension, the Health Ministry announced its plans to reduce public consumption of salt, which raises blood pressure.
Worldwide, high blood pressure is estimated to affect more than one in three adults aged 25 and over, or about one billion people. It is one of the major contributors to heart disease and stroke, which together make up the No. 1 cause of premature death and disability.
Researchers estimate that high blood pressure contributes to nearly 9.4 million deaths resulting from cardiovascular disease each year. It also increases the risk of many conditions, including kidney failure and blindness.
The WHO called on all adults around the world to have their blood pressure measured regularly, either at a clinic or at home with a digital home device.
When people know their blood pressure level, they can take steps to control it, said WHO director-general Dr. Margaret Chan.
It can be reduced not only by eating properly, but with regular exercise, not smoking and avoiding excessive alcohol consumption.
The Health Ministry said that the lower the consumption of sodium chloride, the lower one’s blood pressure.
There is enough salt in prepared food and kashered meat and poultry in Israel that there is no need to add more; herbs and spices can be used to improve the taste of food without additional salt. The ministry encourages the public to reduce their average consumption of salt by three grams a day and hopes to double this reduction to six grams over the next seven years.
The ministry plans to initiate a public information campaign to increase awareness.
It also is working to reduce the amount of salt added to processed foods, and intends to analyze urine samples taken in hospitals and health clinics to determine the exact amount of salt in the Israeli diet.
In addition, labels will have to state how much salt each processed food product contains so consumers can purchase intelligently and gradually reduce their intake.
The ministry has determined that among the commonly purchased products containing the most salt are processed olives, salt pickles, smoked meats and foods, certain types of crackers, soup powders, soy sauce, mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup, pesto and salty snacks. Eating more fresh vegetables and fruits reduces salt consumption, the ministry said. When going out to a restaurant, eat little or no added sodium.
Children, who on average eat more salt than adults because of the high amount of prepared snacks, should be encouraged to avoid them as much as sweet snacks.
Meanwhile, the WHO has released the latest information on the number of people in China infected by the A(H7N9) bird-flu influenza strain. Chinese health authorities announced an additional five laboratory-confirmed cases, including one death due to the virus.
Among the cases in Shanghai was a 52-year-old woman who got sick on March 27 and subsequently died. A 67-year-old man is in critical condition and a four-year-old boy has only mild illness. Two patients from Jiangsu – a 61-year old woman and a 79-yearold man – are both in critical condition. To date, a total of 16 patients in China have been laboratory- confirmed with the virus; of these, six people have died. Various types of bird flu usually begin in southeast Asia because peasants often work closely with domestic birds that have been infected by wild ones.
The Health Ministry in Jerusalem said Israelis are in no danger, but continues to monitor the situation from afar.