A Little 'Salty' Advice Goes a Long Way with Patients

According to a recent Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), more than half of Americans now report taking action towards reducing the amount of sodium in their diets. This is the first study to report state-level estimates of sodium intake behavior among the general population.

Excess sodium intake is a major risk factor for hypertension, and subsequently, heart disease and stroke. During 2011–2012, the average daily sodium intake among U.S. adults was estimated to be 3,592mg, significantly higher than the recommended target of 2,300mg. More than three quarters of sodium in the American diet is estimated to come from processed and restaurant food. Sodium is also found in products that some may not consider “salty,” such as bread, pasta and cereal.

To support strategies to reduce dietary sodium intake, 2013 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) data from states and territories that implemented the new sodium-related behavior module were assessed. A total of 180,067 were included in the study; participants answered questions from the optional sodium-related behavior module. The proportion of respondents who reported taking action to reduce sodium intake ranged from 38.7% (Utah) to 73.4% (Puerto Rico), with a median of 50.6%. Across all participating locations, a higher proportion of participants with hypertension reported taking action to reduce sodium intake compared with those without hypertension (p<0.001 for all comparisons).

The proportion of participants who reported receiving advice from a healthcare professional to reduce sodium intake ranged from 13.5% (Minnesota) to 41.4% (Puerto Rico), with a median of 21.1%. Across all locations, a higher proportion of participants with hypertension reported receiving health professional advice to reduce sodium intake compared with those without hypertension (p<0.001 for all comparisons). Receiving advice from a healthcare practitioner was associated with taking action towards reducing sodium levels (prevalence ratio=1.59).

 

The data in this report suggests that a greater proportion of patients would likely take action to reduce their sodium intake if their clinicians provided them with sodium reduction advice. While healthcare practitioners may doubt whether their recommendations will in fact affect patient behavior, the findings in this study indicate sodium reduction advise was significantly and positively associated with action. Reducing sodium intake by 1,200mg daily is projected to save $18 billion in health care costs yearly. Healthcare professionals can make a difference by recommending healthy dietary patterns, such as the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.

Age-adjusted percentage of adults aged ≥18 years who reported being advised by a health professional to reduce dietary sodium intake — 26 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 2013

For more information visit CDC.gov.

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