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22 Volume
1-2 Number
2009 Year
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Cornell University
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Salt Matters

Salt Check
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SaltCheck Inc.

Excessive salt consumption is a major problem for anyone managing high blood pressure and heart disease. More than 60 million Americans have hypertension, and for many it is not adequately controlled. In most people, blood pressure increases with increased salt intake and falls with reduced intake.

The National Institutes of Health specifically recommends limiting the intake of salt upon diagnosis of hypertension. For the five million Americans with heart disease, monitoring of salt intake is critically important. For some patients with hypertension, controlling salt intake can mean less medication. For patients with severe heart disease, salt control can make the difference between life and death.

Despite its widely acknowledged effects on both blood pressure and on response to anti-hypertensive medication, salt intake is rarely monitored in clinical practice by either health care providers or patients. The current standard for monitoring salt intake requires urine collection over a 24-hour period to measure sodium excretion. But the inconveniences of specimen collection—from the all-day collection to the delay in receiving the results from the laboratory—make this method too impractical for repeated monitoring.

On-the-Spot Testing

SaltCheck Inc., an Allied Minds company that is based on Cornell research, is working to develop and commercialize an on-the-spot test to monitor salt excretion that closely mirrors salt intake for hypertension patients. The test stems from research done by Samuel J. Mann, Medicine, Division of Hypertension, and Linda M. Gerber, Public Health at the Weill Cornell Medical College. It uses two dipsticks to conduct a spot check of sodium levels in the patient's urine (similar to an at-home pregnancy test). Results from the dipstick test are interpreted based on statistical adjustments derived from Mann’s and Gerber’s studies.

A physician or a patient can perform this new diagnostic test as often as desired. Ready and reliable information on patients’ salt intake over time will enable medical practitioners to know which patients have unacceptably high levels of salt intake, and they can then recommend or reemphasize dietary changes or prescribe a more tailored drug therapy.

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