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High salt intake in Nigeria: A silent threat to cardiovascular health – Minister

The Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Prof. Mohammed Ali Pate, has emphasised the importance of reducing salt intake due to its harmful effects on our health.

This announcement was made on Thursday at a press conference in Abuja marking World Salt Awareness Week. The World Salt Awareness Week aims to encourage the implementation of interventions to reduce salt consumption in the population to protect cardiovascular health and help prevent many other diseases.

“Our beloved country, Nigeria, is not immune to the global epidemic of hypertension and heart diseases. The choices we make at our dining tables, the ingredients we stir into our pots, and the snacks we consume at moments of leisure — all contribute to the silent escalation of health risks associated with high salt intake,” the minister stated.

In Nigeria alone, there are over 76.2 million people living with cardiovascular diseases, with about 10 per cent of these affecting the mortality rate of the country.

Pate reiterated that Nigerians consume about 5.8 to 25 grammes of dietary salt every day, which is higher than the maximum daily intake of 2 grammes of sodium and 5 grammes of salt recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Read more: Foods to Avoid at Age 40

He assured Nigerians of the various initiatives the government is taking, such as the National Multi-sectoral Action Plan (NMSAP) for the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases 2019.

“We have revised the National Policy on Food Safety & Quality and its Implementation Plan for 2023. This revision includes a crucial emphasis on healthy diets and underscores the importance of developing a National Guideline for Sodium Reduction,” he said.

In addition, the federal government is working on creating the first National Sodium Benchmark. This means they are setting specific limits for how much salt can be in certain foods. It’s a significant step in helping to reduce the amount of salt people eat, which is important for our health.

The Director General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Control (NAFDAC), Prof Mojisola Adeyeye, who was also present, observed that the excessive intake of sodium is tied to different health problems, particularly hypertension, which is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in the country, with high salt consumption as a contributing factor.

“Regardless of our age or gender, we all stand to benefit from reducing our salt intake. The earlier we adapt to a lower salt diet, the less damage we create for our hearts, but with blood pressure in children rising, it is clear that salt is not just an issue for the older generation,” Adeyeye stated.

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