More than 23,000 New Yorkers die from heart disease and stroke each year.
Too much salt can raise your blood pressure and your risk for heart attack and stroke, the leading causes of death in the United States. Americans consume twice the recommended amount of salt every day - but cutting down isn't easy. Only one tenth of the salt we eat is added at home, while cooking or at the table. Almost 80% is added to food before it's sold, even though many products that contribute sodium to the American diet, including bread, cereal and other processed foods, don't taste salty.
The NYC Health Department is spearheading the National Salt Reduction Initiative (NSRI), a nationwide effort to reduce the amount of salt in our diets by 20% over five years. The NSRI, a collaboration of more than 50 cities, states and national health organizations, has worked with food industry leaders to commit to sodium targets in order to reduce salt levels in packaged and restaurant food. Experts estimate that a reduction of this amount could save tens of thousands of lives each year and billions of dollars in health care spending. The initiative is modeled after a program in the United Kingdom, which has resulted in decreases of up 50% in sodium levels in some foods, and there are similar programs currently in Australia, Canada, Finland, Ireland, and New Zealand.
Private sector donors have critically supported this effort by helping the NYC Health Department create a national database to assess and monitor sodium intake in the population and measure the amount of sodium in the average New Yorker's diet. A true public-private partnership, additional public sector funds were received in 2010 to work with restaurants and NYC hospitals to reduce salt content in foods, and to launch a print media campaign to educate consumers on high sodium in processed foods.
The NSRI demonstrates the power and value of collaboration. With the efforts of city and state public agencies, health organizations and health advocates in the food industry working together, by 2014 Americans will have more control over the sodium they consume and their chances of suffering preventable heart attacks, strokes and premature death will be reduced.
Learn more about the National Salt Reduction Initiative.