A new study has stressed that reducing sodium intake should be a major public health priority for governments and nongovernmental organizations to improve population health.

While higher blood pressure is linked with cardiovascular disease, a diet high in sodium is known to cause high blood pressure, vascular and cardiac damage, stomach cancer, osteoporosis, and other diseases.

Almost 1 billion adults worldwide have hypertension, and 17-30 percent of these cases can be attributed to excessive sodium consumption.

In developed countries, almost 80 percent of sodium intake is from processed food.

And the researchers led by Dr. Kevin Willis, at Canadian Stroke Network, have said that the regulation of the food industry by the government will bring about the most effective change, although immediate voluntary action is desired.

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“A population-wide reduction in sodium intake could prevent a large proportion of cardiovascular events in both normotensive and hypertensive populations. For example, a population-wide decrease of 2 mm Hg diastolic blood pressure would be estimated to lower the prevalence of hypertension by 17 percent, coronary artery disease by 6 percent and the risk of stroke by 15 percent, with many of the benefits occurring among patients with normal blood pressure,” wrote Willis.

The researchers recommend that national public health policy be focused on reformulating processed food, educating consumers, labelling food clearly, and setting timelines to meet these targets.

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