We are wayyy, wayy too salty in the Caribbean. And I don’t mean that in a colloquial sense. I mean it in a we consume wayyyy too much salt sort of a way and it is sending many of us into an early grave while wreaking havoc on our bodies and finances along the way.
I myself am no exception. Daily I do battle with consuming salty treats while reminding myself to imbibe on, you guessed it … ‘wata’, aka water, aka agua, aka l’ eau.
Most days I feel I win the battle; at least that is the story I tell myself. Earlier today, I was reminded of the need to stay the course while holding firm to my seat on the ‘Cut Back on the Salt’ wagon.
The occasion was the regional workshop on strategies to reduce salt consumption for the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in the Caribbean.
It is being hosted by the Caribbean Public Health Agency in conjunction with the Ministry of Health & Wellness here in Jamaica; the Ministry of Health, Grenada; and the Ministry of Health, Trinidad and Tobago.
There, Minister of Health and Wellness Dr. Christopher Tufton called to mind some eye-opening statistics, based in the findings of the Jamaica Health and Lifestyle Survey for 2016/2017.
- 1 in 3 Jamaicans are hypertensive – 35.8% women and 31.7% men. Deep breath.
- Four out of every 10 of us with hypertension are unaware of our status – 60% men and 26% women. Say what now?!!!!
- 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. Gasp.
What is more, this is not only a Jamaica problem; it is also a regional problem.
Quite a part from the scope of the challenge reflected in it being a regional problem is that fact it also represents an opportunity; an opportunity to bring to bear our collective resources to benefit the greater good of the region: public health. The Minister himself advanced the need for collaboration among a wide cross-section of stakeholders.
What is more, we have things like the Caribbean Cooperation in Health Mechanism to aid us in our efforts and some global targets, to say nothing of the benefit to the population in the way of wellness – physical, mental, emotional, and financial – as incentives.
“As the 2009 Policy Statement from the PAHO/WHO Regional Expert Group on Cardiovascular Disease Prevention through Dietary Salt Reduction tells us, ‘Reducing salt consumption population-wide is one of the most cost-effective measures available to public health. It can lower the rates of a number of related chronic diseases and conditions at an estimated cost of between US$0.04 and US$0.32 per person per year’,” Tufton said.
“The economic benefit of action today is also reflected in the 2018 Investment Case for NCDs in Jamaica, which projects that the economy stands to benefit to the tune of more than 77 billion Jamaican dollars over a 15-year period (2017-2030) from investing in a package of interventions for tobacco, alcohol, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease,” he added.
Now for a few interesting or perhaps inspiring (coercive even?) facts.
- There is a distinction to be made between salt and sodium. One is a component of the other. Salt is 40% sodium and 60% chloride.
- The World Health Organisation recommends 5 grams of salt daily and 2 grams of sodium.
- Increasing blood pressure is the leading risk factor for death globally and the second leading risk for disability by causing heart disease, stroke and kidney failure.
Salt, I mean.
I hope so.