"This study is the first time that information about sodium intake by country, age and gender is available," lead author Dr. Saman Fahimi, a visiting scientist in the Harvard School of Public Health, said in a statement. "We hope our findings will influence national governments to develop public health interventions to lower sodium."
Cardiovascular disease is the top cause of death in the world; excess sodium intake raises blood pressure. High blood pressure is one of the major contributors to the development of cardiovascular disease, Fahimi said.
Among women and men, average sodium intake exceeded healthy levels in almost all countries, the study said. Kazakhstan had the highest average intake at 6,000 milligrams per day, followed by Mauritius and Uzbekistan at just about 6,000 mg per day, Fahimi said.
Kenya and Malawi had the lowest average intake at about 2,000 mg per day, while the average intake in the United States was about 3,600 mg a day, the study said.
One hundred eighty-one of 187 countries -- 99 percent of the world's population -- exceeded the World Health Organization's recommended sodium intake of less than 2,000 mg a day; and 119 countries, representing 88 percent of the world's population, exceeded this recommended intake by more than 1,000 mg a day.
All countries except Kenya exceeded the American Heart Association recommended sodium intake of less than 1,500 mg a day, the study found.
The findings were presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions in New Orleans.