PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- A little less salt could go a long way in reducing the risk of heart disease, according to a new study published Monday in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
Doctors say the new research shows that just adding less salt to food, not removing it entirely, can make a difference.
"We consume probably more than 50% more sodium than we really need for our diets," cardiologist Dr. Barry Efron said.
The new study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology looks at data from more than 175,000 participants from the United Kingdom who filled out questionnaires about the frequency of adding salt to foods, not including the salt used in cooking. Those who didn't add salt had lower rates of heart disease.
Consuming too much salt is known to increase blood pressure, which is a leading cause of cardiovascular disease.
"High blood pressure is an epidemic," Efron said. "One in three adults has high blood pressure, and high blood pressure contributes to stroke, heart disease and congestive heart failure, which are the leading causes of death in the United States."
The American Heart Association says more than 70% of the sodium people eat comes from processed and restaurant food. Only about 11% comes from food prepared and cooked at home.
The new research also examined adding salt and the DASH diet. The diet was developed to prevent hypertension or high blood pressure by limiting red and processed meats and focusing on fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy and nuts.
Patients who ate a DASH diet and had a low frequency of adding salt had the lowest heart disease risk.
The new research also found that women are less likely than men to add salt to food.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says soup and lunch meat have the highest amount of salt in processed food. Bread and rolls also have a lot of salt.
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