New York State Receives Funding to Reduce Sodium Consumption

State Health Department Partners with Broome, Schenectady Counties

ALBANY, N.Y. (Dec. 20, 2010) – State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D., announced today that the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have awarded $975,000 to the New York State Department of Health (DOH) to create healthier food environments and to reduce dietary sodium intake among New Yorkers.

Excess sodium consumption has been linked with increased blood pressure and cardiovascular disease – the leading cause of death in New York State.

The average American consumes more than 3,400 milligrams of sodium daily. The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting sodium to less than 2,300 milligrams daily. Adults at risk for cardiovascular disease – such as people with high blood pressure, African Americans, and middle-aged and older adults – should reduce their intake to no more than 1,500 milligrams daily.

Eighty percent of the sodium in people's diets comes from packaged or processed foods or foods purchased in restaurants. Only 5 percent is from salt added at home during cooking and only 6 percent is from salt added at the table. "This makes it difficult for even the most motivated person to reduce salt intake," Commissioner Daines said. "But people who reduce their salt consumption benefit immediately; blood pressure can decrease within weeks. "Research suggests that reducing the average sodium intake of the adult population to 1,500 milligrams per day could prevent 16 million cases of high blood pressure and save an estimated $26 billion per year in health care costs."

DOH will partner with the Broome and Schenectady county health departments and their community partners to implement the Sodium Reduction in Communities program.

Broome County will work to reduce sodium in meals served in school districts and to increase the availability and sales of lower-sodium products in grocery stores. Broome County Public Health Director Claudia Edwards said, "Broome County continues to suffer disproportionately from premature cardiovascular diseases that are preventable with better nutrition. We need to create the local groundswell that will begin to move the food industry to reformulate their products with lower sodium content."

Schenectady County will work to reduce the sodium in meals served at senior centers, through home-delivered meals and at senior residential facilities. The county will also increase the sales of lower-sodium items at restaurants frequented by seniors such as coffee shops, diners and restaurants offering senior citizen or early bird specials. "There is abundant evidence that as many as 60 percent of seniors over 65 have elevated blood pressure. We see them as an ideal intervention group for our work in Schenectady County. We are very enthusiastic about this effort," said David S. Pratt, M.D., Commissioner of Public Health Services for Schenectady County.

Commissioner Daines noted that the Broome and Schenectady initiatives will help remove "hidden" salt in foods to allow people to better control their salt intakes. Reducing sodium in the food supply will make it easier for everyone to reduce their risk for high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.