Canadian blood pressure experts agree to raise salt limits
Published Thursday, October 17, 2013 9:40AM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, October 17, 2013 2:20PM EDT
The country's top blood pressure experts have decided to update their advice on how much sodium Canadians should have in their diets.
Hypertension Canada, a group that advises doctors on how to best help patients prevent high blood pressure, says most adults should aim for no more than 2,000 milligrams of sodium a day.
Previous recommendations suggest Canadians under the age of 50 limit their daily sodium intake to a mere 1,500 mg a day, which is about a quarter of a teaspoon.
Those aged 51 to 70 were advised to get even less -- 1,300 mg – while those over 70 should aim for 1,200 mg.
Most Canadians take in much more sodium every day, consuming an average of 3,400 mg a day. About three-quarters of that comes from processed packaged food, experts estimate, as well as from restaurant and fast foods.
By raising the sodium limit to 2,000 mg, most Canadians will still need to cut their average sodium intake by about a third. But that's less than the 56-per-cent reduction previously recommended.
Task-force co-chairman Dr. Raj Padwal says getting Canadians to lower their sodium intake to 1,500 mg a day from the estimated current average of 3,400 mg is likely not feasible.
The doctors decided there was no evidence that there were enough benefits in encouraging Canadians to reduce their sodium intake to bare minimum levels.
Dr. Andrew Pipe, chief of the Division of Prevention and Rehabilitation at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute, who has been at the conference, says that the proposed changes are meant to bring Canadian sodium intake guidelines in line with recommendations from the World Health Organization.
He says while there were some discussions about the hazards of too little salt, those concerns don't affect Canadians who don't have terminal illnesses or inadequate diets.
"For most average individuals, it's impossible to get too little salt," Pipe told CTV News Channel Thursday.
Pipe agreed that most Canadians' daily sodium intake comes from prepared foods, but he says the average Canadian should still work on reducing their salt intake by refusing to add salt at meals.
"Take the salt shaker off their table and forget about it. They'll get used to different levels of salt taste very rapidly," he said.
Canadians should also read food labels and avoid heavily salty foods and snacks. As well, he advises Canadians to get their blood pressure checked.
"Every Canadian should know their blood pressure. Because knowing it and having it addressed if it's high can result in substantial benefits," he said.
Hypertension Canada convenes a task force once a year to review the latest scientific evidence about how to prevent, treat and manage high blood pressure. They then advise physicians on the updates through CHEP, the Canadian Hypertension Education Program.
The new recommendation, decided at the Vascular 2013 Conference in Montreal, will come into effect in January 2014.