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Increase Your Potassium, Watch Your Salt

Posted by ComForCare on October 7, 2011 at 10:00 AM

High-Potassium-FoodsNew Study Shows Potassium Reduces Risk of Heart Attack and Stroke

People whose diets have roughly equal amounts of sodium and potassium are at the lowest risk of dying from a heart attack and stroke, new study finds.

For decades now, we’ve heard that too much sodium can cause hypertension and raise the risk of cardiovascular disease.

People have paid far less attention to potassium, a mineral that has opposite effects on health: Get enough of it, and it can actually lower your blood pressure and protect your heart.

Now a study of more than 12,000 adults has underscored something that doctors and nutritionists have been saying for years: If you watch your sodium but ignore potassium, you’re missing an important part of the picture.

The study, published in the August 11 issue of the journal Archives of Internal Medicine, found that people whose diets had the lowest ratio of sodium to potassium (translating to roughly equal amounts of the two nutrients) were at the lowest risk of dying from a heart attack and stroke. Those who consumed the highest amounts of sodium relative to potassium — 50% more, on average — had a 46% higher risk of dying from cardiovascular-related illness.

Potassium Counteracts the Effects of Sodium

Focusing on the ratio between sodium and potassium makes biological sense because the minerals are known to have opposite effects on blood pressure. Sodium generally increases blood pressure and signals the body to retain fluids. Potassium, however, relaxes blood vessels, lowers blood pressure and helps rid the body of excess fluids.

More than 75% of American sodium intake comes in the form of processed foods. However, the best potassium sources are fruits and vegetables such as potatoes, bananas, grapes, carrots, greens and citrus fruits. Simply by eating fewer processed foods you can decrease your sodium intake and increase your potassium intake in one fell swoop.

The message overall is simple- eat a healthy balanced diet. It’s good in general and cardiovascular health.

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