Reducing dietary salt intake in primary care
This project aims to develop and test a novel approach to support individuals with high blood pressure to reduce their salt intake by helping them choose lower salt products when supermarket shopping.
Why is this important:
One in three people in the UK has high blood pressure and this is a major cause of ill-health and disability in the UK. In particular it increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. There is conclusive scientific evidence to indicate the higher intakes of salt are linked to increases in blood pressure. The recommended dietary salt intake for adults is less than 6g/day but the average salt intake for adults in the UK is 8.1g/day. The majority of salt in the diet comes from salt in packaged or processed foods, not salt added at the table or in home cooking. This is despite action by the food industry to reduce the salt content of commonly eaten, high salt foods such as bread, cereals, cheese and processed meat (e.g. ham).
This project aims to identify new ways to help individuals reduce their dietary salt intake to tackle high blood pressure by changing the types of food people purchase or helping them choose products containing less salt. Making changes to the foods you habitually buy and eat isn’t easy. Finding lower salt alternatives can be difficult and time consuming but technology can help by providing tools to support people to make informed decisions when shopping.
An intervention will be developed to help people with high blood pressure to choose lower salt products when shopping. The intervention will consist of one-to-one advice from a practice nurse about salt and its effect on blood pressure, combined with use of a new smartphone app. The nurse will encourage individuals to download the app and explain how to use it while shopping for food to help identify lower salt alternatives. We will test how people use the app by accompanying them as they go shopping to identify any difficulties.
We will conduct a small trial to test whether this approach can help people reduce their salt intake over a six-week period. We will measure salt intake and blood pressure. We will also ask participants to provide feedback to gauge how acceptable they found the intervention and gather ideas for further improvements.
If the intervention is acceptable to participants and the results look promising we will plan a larger trial to show whether this intervention helps lower blood pressure in the long-term.
In designing this research project, some members of the public with high blood pressure were consulted. Members of the public will continue to play a pivotal role in the research process, helping to design and test the intervention and ensuring participant-facing study materials are clear and comprehensive.
HOW COULD THIS BENEFIT PATIENTS?
If this intervention works well, it has the potential to help people with high blood pressure to better manage their diet, potentially avoiding the need to take long-term blood pressure medication. It could offer a low-cost intervention that can easily be provided to a large number of patients, through their usual GP practice. It would also be possible for the general public to download and use the app if they wished. This may help everyone to reduce their salt intake and improve their health.