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World Salt Awareness Week seeks to further improve awareness among the general public

Pank Jit Sin
04 Mar 2020
Professor Datin Dr Chia Yook Chin, Associate Dean of School of Healthcare and Medical Sciences, and Head of Department of Medical Sciences, Sunway University.

The World Salt Awareness week will take place from 9 to 15 March and this year’s theme is “Hide and Seek.” The “Hide” in the theme alludes to the hidden salt in our processed and prepared foods while “Seek” refers to the public’s necessity to seek out lower salt options.

While salt is added to dishes during cooking, there is less awareness of hidden salt in breads, breakfast cereals, cakes, biscuits, and sauces. Our taste buds are so used to salt that it is immediately obvious when salt is reduced or missing from a common food item. However, according to Professor Datin Dr Chia Yook Chin, a member of the Hypertension Cardiovascular Outcome Prevention and Evidence in Asia (HOPE Asia) Network, our taste buds get used to the reduced salt taste after about a month.

Instead of adding salt, Chia suggested the use of herbs and spices to flavour a dish. The addition of monosodium glutamate, a common flavouring, also contributes to the daily limit. In case of our regular bread, the raising agent sodium bicarbonate is also a source of salt. These are all hidden salt sources and are easily overlooked . Chia, who is attached to the Department of Medical Sciences at Sunway University, is engaging food vendors at the university to participate in the salt reduction endeavour.

The World Salt Awareness Week is an effort by the International Society of Hypertension (ISH). Every year, the society and its partners continue efforts to educate the public on the dangers of excessive salt consumption. This year several members from the School of Healthcare and Medical Sciences at Sunway University  plus members of the Malaysian Society of Hypertension-Sunway University Young Investigators Network are planning activities to raise awareness about the detrimental effects of a high salt intake. In addition to hypertension, there is the need to drive the awareness that excessive salt consumption is linked to kidney disease, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, stomach cancer, kidney stones, and more. [Available at http://www.worldactiononsalt.com/salthealth/factsheets/other/. Accessed on 28 February 2020]

May Measurement Month is just around the corner
May 17 is World Hypertension Day. This year, ISH and its affiliate members are looking to continue with the May Measurement Month (MMM) effort, which has been ongoing since 2005 and is endorsed by the World Hypertension League (WHL). Similar to last year’s target, the members are looking to screen at least 1 million persons worldwide for raised blood pressure. MMM managed to reach 1.5 million persons in 2019, making it the world’s largest public blood pressure screening programme. [Available at https://maymeasure.com/about/. Accessed on 28 February 2020]

This year, MSH will again be leading the effort together with members of the Young Investigators Network, Sunway Medical Centre and University Malaya Medical Centre. The ISH has also called for participation of pharmacists in this year’s effort. Recognizing that pharmacists are among the healthcare professionals commonly visited by the general populace, ISH intends to engage their help to screen more people.  

According to Chia, efforts are under way to set up the local equivalent of the global group, World Action on Salt and Health (WASH). With the working name of MyWASH, the body will seek to inculcate salt reduction strategies into aspects of the food industry, lawmakers and the general public. Chia hopes that everyone, in particular doctors, dietitians, pharmacists and other health care professionals, work towards the WHO and the Ministry of Health Malaysia’s goal of achieving a salt intake of less than 5 grams of salt per day by 2025.
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