(CNN) – It’s the number one killer of Americans – heart disease, which is most often caused by high blood pressure.
A new study says making one small change when you eat can help prevent the disease even if you’re at risk now.
If you want to reduce your blood pressure, reduce the amount of salt you eat, according to a new study in the medical journal BMJ.
There’s strong evidence that cutting the amount of sodium in your diet, decreases blood pressure in those with existing hypertension and in people who were not yet at risk.
The greater the reduction in salt intake, the greater the fall in blood pressure the study showed, particularly for those higher at risk such as the elderly, those with existing high blood pressure and African Americans.
The American Heart Association says that in the U.S., more than 40% of African American men and women have high blood pressure.
African Americans are also more likely to develop hypertension early in life where prevention can make an impact.
The lead author says salt reduction efforts should be reinforced to save millions of people suffering and dying from strokes and heart disease each year.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says average Americans consume almost 50 percent more sodium than is generally recommended. The agency says most of the sodium comes from processed or prepared foods, which are found in restaurants or on supermarket shelves.