Raised blood pressure is a major cause of cardiovascular disease, responsible for 62% of stroke and 49% of coronary heart disease. There is overwhelming evidence that dietary salt is the major cause of raised blood pressure and that a reduction in salt intake lowers blood pressure, thereby, reducing blood pressure-related diseases. Several lines of evidence including ecological, population, and prospective cohort studies, as well as outcome trials, demonstrate that a reduction in salt intake is related to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. Increasing evidence also suggests that a high salt intake may directly increase the risk of stroke, left ventricular hypertrophy, and renal disease; is associated with obesity through soft drink consumption; is related to renal stones and osteoporosis; is linked to the severity of asthma; and is probably a major cause of stomach cancer. In most developed countries, a reduction in salt intake can be achieved by a gradual and sustained reduction in the amount of salt added to foods by the food industry. In other countries where most of the salt consumed comes from salt added during cooking or from sauces, a public health campaign is needed to encourage consumers to use less salt. Several countries have already reduced salt intake. The challenge now is to spread this out to all other countries. A modest reduction in population salt intake worldwide will result in a major improvement in public health.
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