The average amount of salt consumed by Jamaicans is almost twice as high as the recommended level of intake, contributing to high blood pressure among members of the population, while putting them at increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
The revelation was made by the Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Christopher Tufton, as he referenced findings from phase one of a salt study commissioned by the ministry last year.
“Sixty-seven per cent or two out of every three Jamaicans consume more than the recommended sodium intake, which is about 3.6 grams daily above the recommended level of 2 grams daily,” the minister said while addressing the media launch of the 66th Annual CARPHA Health Research Conference in Kingston on Tuesday.
Dr Christopher Tufton
Other findings from phase one of the study, which is being led by Professor Trevor Ferguson, Director, Epidemiology Research Unit at the Caribbean Institute for Health Research, include that:
? 73% of males have higher than recommended levels of sodium intake, with prevalence highest among men aged 45-54 years.
? 60.7% of females have higher than recommended levels of sodium intake, with prevalence greatest among those 35-44 years.
? The estimated mean sodium consumption suggests a pattern of high sodium and low potassium consumption for almost 30 years, with results reported from phase one of the study similar to those from the Spanish Town Cohort Study of the 1990s.
“Indeed, the majority of adult Jamaicans have diets high in sodium and low in potassium, requiring urgent public health interventions to reduce salt consumption and increase potassium intake to address the burden of hypertension and cardiovascular disease,” Tufton stated.
The salt study comes against the background of concerning statistics for hypertension (high blood pressure) among Jamaicans. One in three Jamaicans are hypertensive – 35.8% women and 31.7% men, according to the Jamaica Health and Lifestyle Survey 2016/17.
Four out of every 10 people with the disease are unaware of their status – 60% men and 26% women. At the same time, more and more Jamaicans aged 15 to 74 years old are developing hypertension. In 2017, 31.5% of persons in this age group had high blood pressure, compared to 20.9% in 2001.