Nearly all Americans – regardless of age, race, gender or whether
they have high blood pressure (hypertension) – consume more sodium than
is recommended for a healthy diet. That is the conclusion of a new
report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
in today’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).
According to the latest findings, more than 90 percent of children
and 89 percent of adults aged 19 and older eat too much sodium, that is,
more than the recommended limits in the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans,
not including salt added at the table. The newly released guidelines –
which are developed around current scientific evidence and released
every five years – recommend limiting sodium to less than 2,300 mg per
day for people over the age of 14 and less for those younger. Evidence
links excess sodium intake to high blood pressure and other health
“The finding that nine of ten adults and children still consume too
much salt is alarming,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH. “The
evidence is clear: too much sodium in our foods leads to high blood
pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Reducing
sodium in manufactured and restaurant foods will give consumers more
choice and save lives.”
CDC researchers analyzed dietary data from the 2009-2012 National
Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) to calculate how much
sodium Americans are eating. Nearly 15,000 people were included in this
Sodium consumption high among those at risk of heart disease
Excess sodium intake is a problem across gender, race, and health status. Some differences were seen:
Among adults, a larger proportion of men (98 percent) than women (80 percent) consume too much sodium.
About 90 percent of adult whites consume excess sodium compared with 85 percent of blacks.
Estimated sodium and calorie consumption peaks between the ages of 19 and 50.
Among people at greater risk of developing heart disease or stroke –
such as people age 51 and older, African Americans and individuals with
high blood pressure or pre-hypertension (blood pressure higher than
normal but not in the “high” range) – more than three out of four exceed
2,300 mg per day.
Adults with hypertension consume slightly less sodium than other
adults, and may be trying to follow physicians’ advice to reduce sodium.
However, 86 percent of adults with hypertension still consume too much.
These new findings show that little has changed in sodium consumption
over the past decade. More than three quarters of sodium in the
American diet is estimated to come from processed and restaurant food,
which gives consumers little choice when it comes to lowering daily
intake. A key strategy for lowering population-wide sodium intake is
gradually reducing sodium in the food supply. Some food companies have
begun to voluntarily reduce sodium in their products and others are
being encouraged to take similar steps.
The report also highlights the important role healthcare
professionals can play in advising patients on how to limit salt in the
diet. About one in three U.S. adults – or about 70 million people –
already have high blood pressure and only half have it under control.
Heart disease, stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases kill more than
800,000 Americans each year and cost nearly $320 billion a year in
health care and lost productivity.
“Sodium reduction is a key part of preventing heart disease and
stroke,” said Sandra Jackson, an author of the report and an
epidemiologist in CDC’s Division for Heart Disease and Stroke
Prevention. “Reducing sodium is an achievable and effective strategy to
improve heart health for everyone, but it’s going to take all of us
working together to make it possible.”