Lifestyle

 

Cutting teen salt could save future health costs

cnn.com | 11/14/10

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Reducing the amount of salt teens eat by 3 grams per day - that's about 1,200 milligrams or a 1/2  teaspoon - could lead to a 68 percent decrease in the number of teenagers with hypertension and also lower the number of U.S. adults with heart conditions in the future, says new research from epidemiologists at University of California, San Francisco.

Hypertension or high blood pressure can lead to strokes and heart attacks, and although these problems are not common in teens, studies have found that young adults in their 20s and 30s who have high blood pressure often began the struggle as children.

Dr. Kristin Bibbins-Domingo, lead author of the UCSF study, says the taste for salt is a learned behavior, and so early intervention is key. "We can hopefully change the expectation of how food should taste,  ideally to something slightly less salty," she says.

Bibbins-Domingo used a computer model to analyze cardiovascular disease in teenagers between ages 12 and 18 and predict how lowering salt intake for this age group could help decrease the numbers of hypertensive adults in the future.

The study found that if teenagers today started eating a 1/2 teaspoon less of salt each day, there could be as much as a 43 percent decrease in the more than 2.7 million adults between ages 35 and 50 who suffer from hypertension.

"If you start with higher systolic and diastolic blood pressure numbers in your teens, you'll likely have even higher numbers in your 20s and 30s." Bibbins-Domingo explains.  "Your body gets accustomed to foods you eat, so the key is to set habits for healthy eating throughout your life."

The results of this study are being presented at this year's American Heart Association Scientific Session.

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