Reducing dietary salt intake and boosting levels of potassium would prevent millions of deaths from heart disease and stroke worldwide each year, according to three new studies.
The new studies, which reviewed prior research, were published online April 4 in the BMJ.
One study examined the findings of 34 clinical trials involving more than 3,000 adults and found that a modest reduction in salt intake led to significant decreases in blood pressure, leading to a reduced risk of heart attack, stroke and heart failure.
Similar findings were reported in another study that reviewed 56 previous studies. It found that reducing salt consumption led to lower blood pressure and a decreased risk of stroke and fatal heart disease in adults.
There was also evidence that reduced salt intake lowered blood pressure in children.
A third study analyzed data from 33 clinical trials that involved more than 128,000 people and found that increased potassium intake reduced blood pressure in adults and reduced their risk of stroke by 24 percent.
Higher potassium intake may also benefit children, but more research is needed, the study authors said.
Potassium is found in most fresh fruits and vegetables and in legumes, such as beans and peas.
The World Health Organization has set a global goal to reduce dietary salt intake to 5 to 6 grams (about one teaspoon) per day by 2025. However, the study researchers and some other experts recommend a further reduction to 3 grams per day.