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Has your doctor told you to eat less salt lately?

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Here’s the good news: more than half of U.S. adults (53 percent) say that they are watching or reducing the sodium they eat. And they’re especially likely to be doing so if a doctor or another health care professional advised them to do it. A whopping 82 percent of people who received advice from a healthcare professional to cut back on salt acted on it.

Here’s the bad news: only 23 percent of adults said they got that advice from a health care professional.

salt in measuring spoon

People were more likely to get medical advice to reduce salt if they were taking medicine for high blood pressure and/or had diabetes, kidney disease, or a history of heart disease. People were least likely to get advice if they were young (18-24 years old). This is probably because the health problems linked to high sodium aren’t usually apparent at younger ages, but blood pressure rises as we get older. By starting to control the salt we eat as early as possible, it can help prevent high blood pressure later in life. This is important because 90 percent of American adults are expected to get high blood pressure in their lifetimes.

The proportion of adults who did not report receiving advice suggests health professionals may be missing a “teachable moment,” researchers said.

The research was presented at the American Heart Association's Epidemiology and Prevention/Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health 2015 Scientific Sessions, held March 3-6, 2015 in Baltimore.

Has a doctor or other health care professional ever told you to eat less salt?