A new study from the January issue of Archives of Internal Medicine suggests an additional or alternative path to lowering high blood pressure: balancing sodium and potassium intake. Potassium acts as a counter to sodium, helping to balance or minimize the detrimental effects of sodium in diets that need to be wary of salt. The ratio of sodium-to-potassium was found to be a much stronger predictor of cardiovascular disease than independent measures of either sodium or potassium by themselves.
"There isn't as much focus on potassium, but potassium seems to be effective in lowering blood pressure and the combination of a higher intake of potassium and lower consumption of sodium seems to be more effective than either on its own in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease," said Dr. Paul Whelton, principle author of the study and the president and CEO of Loyola University Health System.
The study's trials, which followed a middle age population for 15 years, found that participants with the highest sodium-to-potassium ratios were 50% more likely to experience cardiovascular disease than those with the lowest sodium-to-potassium ratios. This study is a vast improvement over previous investigations of the relationship between sodium, potassium and cardiovascular disease because it had such a long duration, high participant population, and physical data collection (urine samples) compared with previous trials. Many earlier studies relied on participant recall of what they had eaten, or what they ate, and many of those previous efforts had been cross-sectional rather than follow-up studies.
Whelton was a member of the recent Institute of Medicine panel which has laid out new recommendations for salt and potassium intake. For 19-to-50 year-old adults, in order to prevent the onset of heart disease, it isrecommended that you should consume no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day -- equivalent to one teaspoon of table salt. Presently, 95% of men and 75% percent of women in the US exceed this amount, while only half of US population receives the recommended amount of potassium. In order to lower blood pressure and minimize the effects of sodium intake, adults should have 4.7 grams of potassium in their diet on a daily basis. (There are exceptions of course -- those who have a clinical condition or medication should consult their doctor before increasing potassium in their diet.)
For more info about potassium and the Loyola Study, please click on the links below:
Loyola Medicine: Reducing Salt Intake Isn't The Only Way To Reduce Blood Pressure