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Introducing legislation to reduce salt intake could prevent thousands of heart disease cases

Comment by Monique Verschuren, EACPR Prevention, Epidemiology and Population Science Section

Effectiveness and cost effectiveness of cardiovascular disease prevention in whole populations: modelling study
P. Barton, L. Andronis, A. Briggs, K. McPherson, S. Capewell
BMJ 2011; 343:d4044 doi: 10.1136/bmj.d4044

Risk Factors and Prevention

This paper by Barton et al. estimates the potential (cost) effectiveness of preventive measures aimed at the total population of England and Wales.
Two simulations of a small shift of the population distribution of blood pressure and total cholesterol were modelled, as well as two scenarios of legislative interventions aimed at reducing intake of trans fats and salt, sustained over a period of 10 years.
Legislative measures to reduce salt intake by 3 g/d (approximately 30%) would prevent 30,000 cardiovascular events, reduction of trans fats about 190,000 events over this period; 5% reductions in blood pressure and total cholesterol would result in prevention of about 80,000 respectively 60,000 cardiovascular events.

The authors calculated that an intervention programme that reduced cardiovascular events by just 1% would save the health service at least 30 million pounds per year, and that any intervention that achieved even a modest population wide reduction in any major cardiovascular risk factor would produce net cost savings to the NHS, as well as improving health.