Cut down salt intake

A WHO report issued stipulates in the Pacific region alone, the main cause of premature mortality is cardiovascular disease, with some Pacific Island countries owning a 45 per cent prevalence — that is a hefty statistic.

And while that sounds somewhat discouraging, there are a number of things people can do to reduce their chances of getting heart diseases.

As is characteristic of NCDs, heart diseases are often associated with lifestyle choices.

WHO’s representative in the South Pacific and director Division of Pacific Technical Support Dr Yunguo Liu said one of the main areas of concern lay in the high consumption of salt, adding, however, there had been progress.

“WHO recommends implementation of policies to ensure food manufacturers incrementally reduce levels of salt in food products and meals,” Dr Liu said.

“High salt intake contributes to raised blood pressure and hypertension, which is a key risk factor for heart disease and stroke. WHO recommends healthy eating environments (that promote salt reduction) in public places such as schools, hospitals, workplaces and public institutions.”

Dr Liu said it was important that families became involved in encouraging such environments.

“Practical actions individuals and families can take include reading food labels when buying processed food to choose the product with the lowest salt content, removing salt dispensers and bottled sauces from dining tables.

“Limiting frequent consumption of high salt products such as instant noodles, soy sauce, snacks and chips and limiting the amount of salt added during cooking.”

Another publication by the WHO on cardiovascular diseases explained there were three main reasons for fatty build up around the heart — smoking and other tobacco use, unhealthy diets and not staying active.

“If you eat a lot of food and you are not active enough to burn it off, you will put on weight.

“You could slowly become overweight or even obese. Being overweight can lead to diabetes, high blood pressure, and high blood fat levels.

“All of these physical problems increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes. An unhealthy diet often contains too much fast food, which is high in fat and sugar, and sugar-loaded soft drinks.

“Fast food is also very high in salt, which increases blood pressure.”