Salt intake during teenage years can influence one’s cardiac health in adulthood. In fact small amount of salt can reduce the chance of high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke when one grows up, as revealed during a presentation at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2010.

Teenagers eat more than nine grams (3,800 milligrams of sodium) than any other age group, the researchers have found. The recommended level of salt consumption is not more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day for most Americans.

Researchers said by reducing the salt amount by three grams in a teen’s diet can result in 44 per cent to 63 percent decrease (380,000 to 550,000) decrease in hypertension cases among them. Teenagers mostly get the dietary salt overdose from processed foods.

"Reducing the amount of salt that is already added to the food that we eat could mean that teenagers live many more years free of hypertension," said Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, Ph.D., M.D., lead author of the study and associate professor of medicine and epidemiology at the University of California, San Francisco. "The additional benefit of lowering salt consumption early is that we can hopefully change the expectations of how food should taste, ideally to something slightly less salty. Reducing the salt in the teenage diet from an average of 9 grams to 6 grams would get teenage boys and girls to appropriate levels of salt intake."

About 80 percent of salt comes from processed or prepared foods and 35 percent from cereals, breads and pastries.

"The hidden places of salt in our diet are in breads and cereals, canned foods and condiments, and of course fast foods," said Bibbins-Domingo, also co-director of the UCSF Center for Vulnerable Populations. "Most of the salt that we eat is not from our salt shaker, but salt that is already added in food that we eat."

National Center for Health Statistics data reveals that pizza is the biggest source of unnecessary salt intake. Many processed food companies have already joined the National Sodium Reduction initiative and have agreed to lower the salt content in processed and prepared foods.