On Monday, Nov 5th The American Heart Association (AHA) issued a press release confirming their previous stance on how much salt we should consume.
Everybody should consume less than 1500 mg of salt a day, period.
Let me tell you why this statement, particularly coming from AHA is so monumentally important.
If you or somebody you know showed up at the doctor’s office or at the emergency room with heart related illness, the AHA has a lot to do with what treatment was given. Should a cardiac catheterization (angiogram) be performed? If so should a stent be placed to open a blocked artery? Or should the patient be referred for an open heart bypass surgery? If a bypass surgery is performed, what should be used to make a bypass? And what medications need to be used after bypass surgery? In making all these decisions, every one of the nation’s 200, 000 plus primary care doctors, more than 25,000 cardiologists and about 4,000 heart surgeons will be looking to the AHA.
The AHA, a non-profit organization, has but one single mission:
"Building healthier lives free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke."
The AHA raises money mostly by donations and fundraising events and has spent over $4 billion in the last several years on research and education about cardiovascular disease prevention.
In fulfilling its mission, the AHA in collaboration with the American College of Cardiology (ACC) develops what are referred to in medicine as ACC/AHA guidelines for a large variety of cardiac decision-making processes. Physicians and scientists who have demonstrated expertise, knowledge and interest in a particular field in question are frequently assembled into consensus panels. Experts from across the country and the globe, sometimes as many as one hundred or more, come together and painstakingly review every detail of the available evidence. Then they come up with the best recommendations possible to improve the outcomes of cardiovascular disease.
Although the ACC/AHA guidelines are essentially written in stone, they continue to change on an ongoing basis based on the latest scientific experimentation and review of data. Every hospital in America monitors the adherence to these guidelines in treating cardiovascular conditions. ACC/AHA guidelines are considered the gold standard. Certainly every hospital in America monitors the adherence to these guidelines in treating cardiovascular conditions. Given the worldwide reach of AHA, the rest of the world is likely following the same guidelines
In short, the AHA is the granddaddy of all the medical organizations when it comes to cardiovascular care. When AHA speaks everybody in the medical community listens. So when the AHA upon the review of the most recent information, in the interest of the health of 70 million plus Americans with high blood pressure, recommends salt restriction for everybody to be under 1500mg a day, we should take that recommendation extremely seriously.
We have work to do when it comes to spreading that news and changing people’s high-sodium diets. Nobody is going to listen if you simply tell him or her to eat less salt. We already know that. But the book Salt Kills, the first of its kind, has had a big impact on helping people understand why cutting back on salt is so critical. If you or anyone you care has any doubts about the urgent need to restrict the salt in your diet, it’s well worth your time to get your hands on this book. And please help spread the word about it.
We also have to be vigilant about the salt-related vested interests. Don’t be distracted by misleading sales pitches. Remember the AHA guidelines.
The President of the American Heart Association said:
It will require a joint effort between health organizations, policy makers and the food industry to achieve this goal by creating an environment conducive to helping all Americans make healthy, low-sodium food choices.
Getting the policy makers and food industry to co-operate in working towards better cardiovascular health will be a very big challenge. In the meantime, we as individuals need to take charge of how much salt we put in our mouths. And we owe it to ourselves and our loved ones to push for changes that will make eating healthy much easier.