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Estimate of the benefits of a population-based reduction in dietary sodium additives on hypertension and its related health care costs in Canada

Joffres MR, Campbell NR, Manns B, Tu K. Can J Cardiol. 2007; 23(6):437-43.

Background — Hypertension is the leading risk factor for mortality worldwide. One-quarter of the adult Canadian population has hypertension, and more than 90% of the population is estimated to develop hypertension if they live an average lifespan. Reductions in dietary sodium additives significantly lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure, and population reductions in dietary sodium are recommended by major scientific and public health organizations.

Objectives — To estimate the reduction in hypertension prevalence and specific hypertension management cost savings associated with a population-wide reduction in dietary sodium additives.

Methods — Based on data from clinical trials, reducing dietary sodium additives by 1840 mg/day would result in a decrease of 5.06 mmHg (systolic) and 2.7 mmHg (diastolic) blood pressures. Using Canadian Heart Health Survey data, the resulting reduction in hypertension was estimated. Costs of laboratory testing and physician visits were based on 2001 to 2003 Ontario Health Insurance Plan data, and the number of physician visits and costs of medications for patients with hypertension were taken from 2003 IMS Canada. To estimate the reduction in total physician visits and laboratory costs, current estimates of aware hypertensive patients in Canada were used from the Canadian Community Health Survey.

Results — Reducing dietary sodium additives may decrease hypertension prevalence by 30%, resulting in one million fewer hypertensive patients in Canada, and almost double the treatment and control rate. Direct cost savings related to fewer physician visits, laboratory tests and lower medication use are estimated to be approximately $430 million per year. Physician visits and laboratory costs would decrease by 6.5%, and 23% fewer treated hypertensive patients would require medications for control of blood pressure.

Conclusions — Based on these estimates, lowering dietary sodium additives would lead to a large reduction in hypertension prevalence and result in health care cost savings in Canada.

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Keywords: Hypertension Diet and nutrition