Hypertension is one of the leading non-communicable diseases in Ghana. According to a 2000 report by the Ministry of Health, hypertension is the leading cause of death in persons over 45 year olds. Hypertension is also one of the leading causes of Out Patient Department (OPD) attendance at hospitals and clinics across the country.
In 2003, the prevalence of hypertension in urban Accra was found to be 28.3% and 28.7% in Ashanti Region. Evidence from several studies shows that there is a direct relationship between salt intake and hypertension.
Sodium is the culprit component of salt, the excessive intake of which is associated with all the negative health ramifications. Reducing sodium intake can significantly lower blood pressure in adults, in turn helping to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Findings from the 2014 Ghana Demographic and Health Survey (GDHS) indicated that, 63% of women and 86% of men surveyed did not know that they had high blood pressure. Furthermore, high intake of salty (high sodium) foods was found to be prevalent in both urban and rural areas although there were regional variations in household use.
For example, 92% of women in Northern region reported use of bouillon cubes (a source of sodium), as compared with 62% of women in Greater Accra. On the other hand, use of processed or canned meat, fish, or legumes were lowest in the Northern region (7%) and highest in the Volta region (39%).
Use of bouillon cubes decreases with wealth, while the use of processed or canned meat, fish, or legumes increases with wealth.
WHO recommends a daily intake of less than 2.0 g sodium (5.0 g salt) for adults aged 16 years and above. Contrary to these recommendations, in most countries around the world, the average salt intake is approximately 9-12 g per day according to WHO.
The sources of dietary salt intake are, salt from processed food and discretionary salt, which is salt that is added at home during cooking and at the table.
The main food sources of salt in the Ghanaian diet include commercially salted meat/fish such as ‘Koobi’ and ‘Momoni’, some breads, seasonings such as soup powder and stock /bouillon cubes, hard margarine and savoury snacks such as plantain, cocoyam and potato chips.
Most people add salt to food during preparation, and others sprinkle salt on their food at table. Given the statistics for both hypertension and salt intake in our recent DHS, the use of both discretionary and non-discretionary salt need to be considerably reduced in Ghana, in order to cut down on sodium intake.