Salt substitution in rural China would cut hypertension rates

A salt substitute specially formulated to be flavourful and effective has significantly reduced blood pressure among high-risk residents of northern, rural China, where home-pickled foods are a dietary mainstay and hypertension is rampant.

This simple approach announced at the American College of Cardiology's 55th Annual Scientific Session in Atlanta by The George Institute for International Health, offers a new low cost strategy for the prevention of stroke and other cardiovascular diseases.

Stroke and heart attack are the two leading causes of death worldwide, responsible for more than 10 million deaths annually. The problem is particularly marked in China, where salt consumption is very high and elevated blood pressure levels are extremely prevalent.

"Cardiovascular diseases have been the main cause of death in China for some time now," said Associate Professor Bruce Neal, Director of the Cardiac and Renal Division of The George Institute. "Our goal is to help identify practical new ways of addressing this serious health problem. We are particularly interested in strategies that will work in poor rural areas where preventive care is currently very limited."

Professor Neal reported "Among the 600 individuals studied in rural Northern China, the low-sodium high-potassium salt substitute demonstrated that it could reduce blood pressure to about the same extent as single drug therapy."

"It is likely that a population-wide switch to salt substitute in rural China would prevent many hundreds of thousands of serious vascular events each year." Professor Neal added.

The benefits of changing dietary salt intake demonstrated in this study would extend directly to most other countries worldwide. High blood pressure is a leading cause of death the world over and widespread lowering of dietary sodium intake would produce huge health gains.

Until the recent formation of the Australian branch of World Action on Salt and Health (AWASH) there has been little local emphasis on the importance of reducing dietary salt.

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