saltAlthough the $1.1 trillion federal spending bill passed by Congress last week avoided a government shutdown, it fell short on protecting the health of Americans - particularly children, according to the American Heart Association (AHA).

Salty school meals

“The final spending bill approved by Congress could have a harmful impact on the heart health of all Americans,” said CEO Nancy Brown. “It threatens the future health of our children by delaying sodium standards in school meals and shortchanges much-needed investment in life-saving research.”

Tucked away in the 1,600 page legislation is language that delays sodium decreases in school foods until scientific research supports it.  Brown noted that a 2010 Institute of Medicine report contained overwhelming evidence in support of this nutrition standard and others required by the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act.

Heart disease before adulthood

“It’s important to note that the average school lunch provides nearly enough sodium for the entire day,” said Brown. “Without this reduction, more of our children will develop high blood pressure that could lead to heart disease and stroke before they reach adulthood.”

She was also sharply critical of Congressional funding for the National Institutes of Health. “The meager half percent increase to the NIH’s budget clearly does not keep pace with inflation and will slow the progress of heart and stroke research.

The top killer ignored

“We are also very concerned that Congress did not single out the nation’s No. 1 and most costly killer, cardiovascular disease, for an increase. In the United States, 83 million adults suffer from cardiovascular disease and more than 2,000 Americans die from it daily. By 2030, nearly 44 percent of the U.S. population will face some form of cardiovascular disease which will cause total direct and indirect costs to increase from $579 billion to $1.208 trillion. Despite these disturbing projections, the NIH is only able to allocate a mere 6 percent to cardiovascular research. It’s unconscionable that the most common form of death in America is not the No. 1 research priority for our country. “