Reducing salt intake to prevent hypertension and cardiovascular disease

Rev Panam Salud Publica. 2012 Oct;32(4):293-300. doi: 10.1590/s1020-49892012001000008.


There is compelling evidence that dietary salt intake is the major cause of raised blood pressure (BP) and that a reduction in salt intake from the current level of ≈ 9 - 12 g/day in most countries to the recommended level of < 5 g/day lowers BP. A further reduction to 3 - 4 g/day has a greater effect and there needs to be ongoing consideration of lower targets for population salt intake. Cohort studies and outcome trials have demonstrated that a lower salt intake is related to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. Salt reduction is one of the most cost-effective measures to improve public health worldwide. In the Americas, a salt intake of > 9 g/day is highly prevalent. Sources of salt in the diet vary hugely among countries; in developed countries, 75% of salt comes from processed foods, whereas in developing countries such as parts of Brazil, 70% comes from salt added during cooking or at the table. To reduce population salt intake, the food industry needs to implement a gradual and sustained reduction in the amount of salt added to foods in developed countries. In developing countries, a public health campaign plays a more important role in encouraging consumers to use less salt coupled with widespread replacement of salt with substitutes that are low in sodium and high in potassium. Numerous countries in the Americas have started salt reduction programs. The challenge now is to engage other countries. A reduction in population salt intake will result in a major improvement in public health along with major health-related cost savings.

MeSH terms

  • Americas
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Developing Countries
  • Global Health
  • Health Promotion
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / prevention & control*
  • Public Health / economics
  • Sodium Chloride, Dietary / administration & dosage*


  • Sodium Chloride, Dietary