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It is often easy to overlook how much salt we eat in a day.

While you may make a conscious effort to reduce the salt you add to your food, high levels may still be present in pre-prepared meals or snacks you buy from supermarkets or restaurants.

It is important to know how much salt you are eating, as cutting down can have real health benefits.

Eating too much salt can lead to a variety of conditions, including raised blood pressure, heart disease and obesity.

Last week was salt awareness week. Held annually for the last 11 years, it looks to promote a different theme each year, with 2012 dedicated to preventing the risk of stroke from eating too much salt.

As part of the week, hospitals, GP surgeries, health charities, schools, universities and the food industry hold events to help raise awareness in their local area.

Last year there were more than 500 supporting events up and down the country.

A lunch time reception also took place at the House of Commons.

This gave the opportunity for the messages around the risks of excessive salt consumption to be heard by MPs, food retailers, food manufacturers and other groups.

It also gave food companies a chance to show how they have been reducing salt in their products.

So what affect does salt have?

Salt is a necessary part of a balanced diet, but too much of it can put a strain on your body.

When you eat salt, it makes your body retain more water. This extra water puts a strain on the blood vessels leading to the kidneys.

This can damage them, leading to kidney disease, and can also raise your blood pressure.

This in turn can narrow your arteries, raising your blood pressure further and potentially damaging your heart.

It can also stop sufficient blood and oxygen getting to your heart, the result of which can be a stroke.

Follow this advice on how to control your salt intake:

· Adults and children aged 11 and over should eat no more than 6g of salt a day, which is the same as around one full teaspoon.

· Children should eat less than this – the exact amount is dependent on their age:

Children aged one to three years should eat no more than 2g salt a day;

Children aged four to six years should eat no more than 3g salt a day;

Children aged seven to 10 years should eat no more than 5g salt a day.

· Identifying which foods are high in salt, and taking the time to read labels and packaging will help you to cut down on the amount of salt you eat.

When next at the supermarket, try comparing the salt levels of items such as pizza, tomato sauce and baked beans.

Many will have a low salt version. Substituting just one of these things for a low salt alternative per week will help you reduce your salt intake.

· When looking to have a snack, rather than reaching for a packet of crisps, try fruit or vegetables instead as these will be lower in salt.

· Ready made sauces can be high in salt so try to limit your intake of these.

Items such as soy sauce, mayonnaise and mustard can all be high in salt, so be sure to limit your consumption whenever you can.

· When choosing a pasta dish, either in a restaurant or at home, try to go for one based on tomato rather than foods higher in salt, such as bacon, cheese, sausage or pepperoni.

· When having a sandwich, try to pick fillings such as chicken, egg or salad, rather than ham or cheese.

Further details on Salt Awareness Week can be found at actiononsalt.org.uk