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TODAY   |  April 02, 2014

Study: It May Be Safe to Consume More Salt

Dr. Nancy Snyderman, NBC News’ chief medical editor, discusses a new study in the American Journal of Hypertension saying that too little salt can be equally as dangerous as too much.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> important health news involving salt. a new study in the american journal of hypertension says that too little can be just as dangerous as too much. so has salt been given a bad wrap? let's bring in dr. nancy snyderman in with more on this. good morning to you. a healthy person should consume between 2600 and 4945 milligrams. that's a higher range than we've heard before. what do you make of it?

>> significantly higher. my gut for years has been we've made too big of a deal out of salt for normal, healthy people with normal, healthy kidneys. the institute of medicine came out last year and said 2,300 milligrams, the american heart association has always skewed very low. 1,500 milligrams, which i thought was really hard for the average american to stay on. this study is saying, look, you can go higher, and if you're healthy, you're going to be fine. and you raise a question about dropping too low.

>> what if you go 2,300 milligrams a day, is it dangerous to your health or neutral?

>> i don't think it's neutral. for some people it may be. but you need salt for your cells to function. and sodium and potassium, you know, keep fluids moving across your cells, important that you have low blood pressure and you don't get enough salt, you can feel lousy. so for people who are over 50, african-american, bad kidneys, diabetes, high blood pressure , you're a select group. you have to watch how much sodium. but if you're normally healthy, i think you can back off a little bit and relax.

>> let's talk about mammograms, another health topic this morning in a study published in the journal of the medical association . looked at 50 years of research on the topic. what's the headline there?

>> the headline is, i think it's a very important headline, we may be touting the benefits and undertalking about the downside. the imaging now is so good and the radiation exposure so low, we're finding things that may not be cancers which leads us to false positives . biopsies, unnecessary surgeries, stress. and stuff we never talk about, the economic hit to the american health care system and the responsibility we all have to play.

>> just to highlight the numbers you talked about, it said that more than half of the women between the ages of 40 and 50 who have mammograms over a ten-year period have a false positive at least one time.

>> which is significant. five years ago, task force came out and said if your normal family history, no risk factors , you don't have to start screening at 40, you can wait till 50. people hate the message, don't like it. but the reality is, the statistics are the statistics. if you are one of those women who is found to have breast cancer , you know, it's 100% for you. but nonetheless, the data is real. so what we're saying to women is sit down and say to your doctor, look, my age is a risk factor , my family history 's a risk factor , what should i do? and recognize any time you have a test, there's an upside and downside. age will be the determining risk factor . how many people in your family and your genetic hit, i would have to say those are the three big drivers.

>> important information.

>> two big controversial things. i want everyone to know matt.lauer.

>> no, it's nancy -- nancy's going to be taking your questions on salt and mammograms at 1:15 eastern on nbcnews.com. you can send your questions using #asknbcnews.

>> thanks, matt.