Just cutting salt intake by 3 grams a day would mean 6 percent fewer new cases of heart disease, 8 percent fewer heart attacks and 3 percent fewer deaths. These benefits would be even greater for blacks -- there would be 10 percent fewer new cases of heart disease, 13 percent fewer heart attacks and 6 percent fewer deaths, the study said.
"Reductions in salt are difficult for individuals to achieve, because most of the salt in the diet is from processed food, not from salt added to food at the table or while cooking," Bibbins-Domingo said. "Our results suggest that very small reductions in the salt in processed food -- reductions that would not be noticeable in the tastes of most foods -- could lead to the reductions in heart disease and deaths that we model here."
The food industry could take steps to voluntarily reduce salt in processed foods, as has been done in the United Kingdom, Bibbins-Domingo said. "Policy makers could also achieve these objectives through regulation. Such steps, in addition to efforts on the part of individuals to be mindful of their salt intake, could lead to improved heart health across the U.S."
Dr. Gregg C. Fonarow, a professor of cardiology at the University of California, Los Angeles, agreed that reducing salt in your diet could reduce your blood pressure, lowering your odds of developing heart disease.
"The findings of this study are highly dependent on a number of presumptions, some of which have not been tested in randomized clinical trials. Nevertheless, better control of blood pressure in the U.S. would be expected to result in large reductions in clinical events," he said.
The American Heart Association recommends that healthy adults eat less than 2.3 grams of sodium a day, Fonarow noted.
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