Eat less sodium, more potassium for your heart health

January 13, 2009 in Heart Health, Nutrition Topics in the News

Eat less sodium, more potassium for your heart health

Another study has shown that cutting back on salt and eating more potassium-rich fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products can reduce the incidence of heart attack and stroke.

In a new study, researchers looked at the amount of sodium and potassium excreted by 2275 adults with pre-hypertension.

The study participants were randomly assigned to received any one of a number of preventive treatments including interventions for reducing sodium intake alone, weight loss and sodium reduction, and use of supplements like calcium, magnesium, potassium and fish oil.

After 18 to 38 months, people who didn't reduce the amount of sodium they ate had an increase in the ratio of sodium to potassium excreted as compared with their peers who ate less salt.

An elevated sodium to potassium excretion ratio may result in higher risk of heart attacks and strokes, according the report published in the current issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

This is the first study of the sort to look at sodium and potassium excretion in people who have changed their diet to make it more heart healthy.

Scientists are certain how potassium works to keep blood pressure in check. It's thought that the mineral somehow makes blood vessels less sensitive to hormones that normally cause them to constrict. Other experts feel that potassium acts on blood vessels directly causing them to relax. A higher potassium intake also causes the kidneys to excrete more sodium, thereby preventing blood pressure from rising.

Adults need 4.7 grams (4700 milligrams) of potassium each day. Potassium is found in many foods especially meat, milk, fruits and vegetables. The best way to increase your potassium intake is to eat more fruits and vegetables. While you can get potassium in a supplement, research has shown that potassium in foods is far superior to keeping blood pressure in the normal range. (Before increasing your intake of potassium check with your doctor. Some people, for example those with kidney disease, may need to avoid potassium-rich foods.)

High sodium foods include canned soup, frozen dinners, chips, crackers and, of course, fast food. Instead of these foods, enjoy homemade vegetable soup, low-fat cottage cheese, fresh fruit and vegetable sticks to lower sodium and boost potassium in your snacks and meals.

For heart healthy recipes and more information on how to eat to lower the risk of heart disease and heart attack, check out Leslie Beck's newest book, Heart Healthy Foods for Life.

All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.