For Americans, most salt comes in processed foods, Daviglus and Calhoun said. "It is extremely difficult to avoid high salt intake when you eat these processed foods," Calhoun said.
People have to be aware of the salt content of all the food products they buy, Daviglus said. "I always say to them, 'you have to look at the labels,'" she said. "All these foods are loaded with salt, and we don't realize it -- even ice cream."
The emphasis should be on eating fresh foods, Daviglus said. The heart association provides a list of foods, "how to cook them, what spices to use instead of salt," she said.
Calhoun recommends adherence to the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, which is low in salt and fat and high in fiber. Such a diet reduces cardiovascular risk in several ways, he said.
The DASH diet is described by the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
SOURCES: David A. Calhoun, M.D., professor, medicine, University of Alabama at Birmingham; Martha Daviglus, M.D., professor, preventive medicine and medicine, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago; July 20, 2009, Hypertension, online