Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean Region (EMR) is a transcontinental region centered on Western Asia, east of the Mediterranean Sea and the Egypt. The whole area has almost 20 countries with an approximate population of 400 million with different ethnicities. The whole area has basically a hot and dry climate. In some parts of the Middle East, there is a desert climate.
Cardiovascular diseases were the leading causes of death in the Middle East, similar to the many other territories of the World. Beyond that, the World Health Organization (WHO) has recognized this region as a hotspot for cardiovascular disease, where disease projections will exceed those of other regions. The major reason for this is the great epidemiological transition in these countries. There is a great prevalence of smoking, increasing obesity, and a change in dietary patterns, as well, from traditional to ones higher in calories and processed foods.
Diets high in salt increase blood pressure levels that are the leading contributor to cardiovascular disease mortality. Hypertension is very prevalent in the EMR and the Middle East. The average hypertension prevalence in this territory is around 30% and unawareness, untreated and uncontrolled hypertension rates were very high. Middle East ranks on the top levels for high salt intake compared to many other territories. The global salt consumption analysis showed that average sodium intake ranges from 3.74 to 4.12 grams of sodium per day in the Middle East. This corresponds to 9.35 to 10.3 grams of salt per day. This amount was nearly twice the WHO recommended limit of 5 g/day. Estimated intakes in Middle East countries were also diverse, ranging from 7,8 grams of salt per day in Lebanon to 15 grams of salt per day in Turkey.
It is well known that decreasing dietary salt intake from 10 grams to 5 grams per day could reduce cardiovascular diseases rate by 17% worldwide. Several analyses have also showed that salt reduction strategies will be cost effective in several Middle East countries. As decreasing dietary salt intake could generate substantial health benefits in terms of life years gained and cost savings, this should be urgently implemented.