You’ve likely already heard that too much salt is bad for your heart. Sodium plays many beneficial roles in your body, such as maintaining a proper PH balance, and proper nerve and muscle function. But the old adage “too much of a good thing” is definitely true when it comes to salt. A high intake can cause your body to retain excessive water, which in turn boosts your blood volume. This can lead to hypertension, because there is a larger volume of fluid passing through your heart, putting a strain on it.
Now, what you may not know is that an improper balance of sodium and potassium can pose an even bigger threat. Without the proper ratio of sodium and potassium, you could end up suffering from heart disease.
In a recent clinical trial performed at the Division for Heart Diseases and Stroke Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in Atlanta, Georgia, researchers investigated the sodium/potassium balance and its link to heart health.
The researchers analyzed data from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey Linked Mortality File (1988-2006) — a prospective cohort study of 12,267 U.S. adults. Specifically, they studied all-cause, cardiovascular, and ischemic heart diseases mortality.
During a follow-up period of 14.8 years, the research team documented a total of 2,270 deaths, including 825 cardiovascular deaths and 443 ischemic heart disease deaths. They found that a higher sodium intake was associated with increased all-cause mortality, whereas higher potassium intake was associated with lower mortality risk. The researchers noted that these findings didn’t differ significantly by sex, race/ethnicity, body mass index, hypertension status, education levels, or physical activity. In conclusion, they suggest their findings show that a higher sodium-potassium ratio is associated with significantly increased risk of cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality, and higher sodium intake is associated with increased total mortality.
What can you take away from this clinical trial? Be aware that most people consume too much sodium and so typically need more potassium as well. Boost your potassium levels by adding these healing foods to your diet: apricots; bananas; avocados; brown rice; dates; and blackstrap molasses. Help reduce your sodium levels by lowering your intake of these foods: processed meats; instant noodles and soups; salted butter and margarine; condiments; and salty snacks.