Happy World Health Day: Don’t Pass the Salt

English: Checking the blood pressure by using ...
English: Checking the blood pressure by using a sphygmomanometer and stethoscope. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

NYC Mayor Bloomberg is continuing his efforts to create an enabling environment for health by including sodium reduction in food in his public health campaign. Some people (and some states like Mississippi) complain that Mayor Bloomberg is creating a nanny state; others applaud his efforts. His sodium reduction efforts fit with this year’s World Health Day theme of hypertension awareness and control.

From the WHO World Health Day website http://www.who.int/world-health-day/en/:

“This World Health Day, 7 April 2013, WHO and partners focus on the global problem of high blood pressure. Though it affects more than one in three adults worldwide, it remains largely hidden. Many people do not know they have high blood pressure because it does not always cause symptoms. As a result, it leads to more than nine million deaths every year, including about half of all deaths due to heart disease and stroke.

Everyone can take five concrete steps to minimize the odds of developing high blood pressure and its adverse consequences.

  • Healthy diet:
    • promoting a healthy lifestyle with emphasis on proper nutrition for infants and young people;
    • reducing salt intake to less than 5 g of salt per day (just under a teaspoon);
    • eating five servings of fruit and vegetables a day;
    • reducing saturated and total fat intake.
  • Avoiding harmful use of alcohol i.e. limit intake to no more than one standard drink a day
  • Physical activity:
    • regular physical activity and promotion of physical activity for children and young people (at least 30 minutes a day).
    • maintaining a normal weight: every 5 kg of excess weight lost can reduce systolic blood pressure by 2 to 10 points.
  • Stopping tobacco use and exposure to tobacco products
  • Managing stress in healthy ways such as through meditation, appropriate physical exercise, and positive social contact.”

Managing stress in healthy ways. I’m thinking of how lower socioeconomic status is directly related to increased stress. Recommending meditation to poor people as a way to reduce stress sounds quite condescending, almost like the proverbial ‘let them eat cake’ thing. Exercise and positive social contact make more sense.

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