American Heart Association targets sodium intake

DALLAS: The American Heart Association is preparing to launch an initiative to get consumers to reduce their sodium intake.

DALLAS: The American Heart Association is preparing to launch an initiative to get consumers to reduce their sodium intake.

The trade association hopes the initiative will ultimately lead to sodium listings on foods and menus around the country in much the same way as calorie information.

“I don't think most people are aware of how much sodium is in food,” said Matthew Bannister, EVP of communications at the American Heart Association.

Excessive sodium intake can lead to high blood pressure, which AHA calls the “silent killer” because it has no symptoms. If left unchecked, it could lead to a heart attack.

The initiative, which kicked off Wednesday, has two goals: alter individual behavior and change the food system as whole to make it easier to get low-sodium alternatives. The latter goal is especially important because most people think they can reduce sodium intake by laying off the salt shaker on the table, when in reality foods are already filled with high levels of sodium, Bannister said.

AHA's long-term hope is that if it can push consumers to demand lower-sodium alternatives, food companies will feel more incentivized to create such options.

The average US consumer eats more than 3,700 mg of sodium per day, and AHA wants to lower that intake to 1500 mg.

The brunt of the campaign's messages will focus on “The Salty Six,” which is made up of popular foods that can add high levels of sodium to a person's diet. The list includes breads and rolls, cold cuts and cured meats, pizza, poultry, soup, and sandwiches.

Instead of suggesting that people avoid these items, promotional materials for the effort suggest ways in which consumers can consume them without overloading on salt.

“It's about making small choices in the right direction,” Bannister said. “We really trying to get the conversation started.”

AHA's initiative will largely involve social and traditional media outreach to start, Bannister said. There will also be some lobbying.

The association had hired Powell Tate earlier this year, but it is understood that the firm is not working on this campaign.

Bannister declined to release a budget for their contract or the campaign.

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