By Dr. Mallika Marshall

BOSTON (CBS) – For the first time, the U.S. government is making proposed recommendations to limit salt in processed foods.

The average American consumes about 3400 milligrams of salt a day, which is about 50% more than the upper limits currently recommended.

Excess salt increases the risk of high blood pressure, which affects about one in three American adults.

But now the FDA is asking food manufacturers and restaurants to reduce salt in their products, a move applauded by experts like Joan Salge Blake, a registered dietitian nutritionist at Boston University.

“Why this is fabulous is because over 70% of the sodium Americans consume is outside the home in either packaged foods or restaurants,” Blake says. “So unless this industry comes on board to help lower the sodium, Americans are not going to be able to get it down to a healthy level.”

It is estimated that reducing dietary salt, even by only a few hundred milligrams a day, could prevent tens of thousands of heart attacks and strokes every year.

The new proposed guidelines are voluntary, so companies will not have to follow them.

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