More potassium, less salt for a healthier heart

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Scientists from Harvard University found having less sodium and more potassium in your diet is linked to a lower risk of heart disease.

The results help clarify sodium’s role in heart disease —that lower consumption is associated with a lower risk of CVD in most populations, including in the U.S.

Sodium is one of the components of table salt and naturally occurs in some foods. However, much higher amounts are also frequently added to commercially processed, packaged and prepared foods.

Potassium naturally occurs in fruits (such as bananas), leafy greens, beans, nuts, dairy and starchy vegetables.

It has an opposite effect to sodium, helping to relax blood vessels and increase sodium excretion while decreasing blood pressure, the researchers explained.

Prior observational studies had led to confusion about whether reducing current levels of salt in the diet might backfire, raising heart disease risk.

In the study, the team combined more than 10,000 healthy adults’ data from six cohort studies where sodium was measured by the currently most reliable method, namely, multiple 24-hour urine samples.

Those samples were taken from generally healthy adults with a study follow-up of cardiovascular events for an average of nearly nine years.

The team found that higher salt intake was significantly associated with higher heart risk in a dose-response manner with a daily sodium intake that ranged from about 2,000 milligrams (mg) in some people to more than 6,000 mg in others.

The current U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends adults limit sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg per day—that’s equal to about 1 teaspoon of table salt.

The study found, however, that for every 1,000 mg per day increase in sodium excretion, a person’s risk for heart disease rose by 18%.

Conversely, for every 1,000 mg per day rise in potassium excretion, the risk of heart disease was 18% lower.

Therefore, a higher sodium-to-potassium ratio was significantly associated with increased cardiovascular risk, the team suggests.

If you care about heart health, please read studies about effective ways to quickly restore normal heart rhythm, and one cup of nitrate-rich vegetables per day may prevent heart disease.

For more information about heart health, please see recent studies about vitamin K that could help cut heart disease risk by a third, and results showing this drug may prevent respiratory and heart damage in COVID-19.

The research was published in the New England Journal of Medicine and conducted by Yuan Ma et al.

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