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Modest reduction of salt prevents significant number of heart attacks

Narrator: This is Science Today. Most adults consume about twice the amount of salt that's currently recommended by government guidelines. The majority of this salt comes from processed foods, not the salt shaker, making it difficult for consumers to limit their intake. Epidemiologist Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, of the University of California, San Francisco, used a computer model to determine that cutting salt intake by just 3 grams a day could prevent a significant number of heart attacks, strokes and death per year.

Bibbins-Domingo: It would lower everyone's blood pressure in a small, but measureable way. We know that blood pressure elevations lead to risk of heart disease and stroke and that is what we modeled.

The Food and Drug Administration recently announced plans to gradually limit the amount of salt allowed in processed foods.

Bibbins-Domingo: From our perspective, salt is a good public health target. It's something that individuals can't make the change on their own, we need some other type of intervention for us to be able to reduce food in the diet. But, if we reduce food in the diet, all of us would benefit. And the groups at highest risk for heart disease, they benefit proportionately more.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.