Potassium is an important mineral for your nervous system. It’s also needed to maintain a regular heart rhythm. It’s not surprising then to come across this health news: too little potassium, along with too much salt in your diet, may boost your risk for cardiovascular disease and death.
Researchers at Harvard Medical School just conducted a clinical trial looking at potassium and sodium intake. Earlier studies have found an association between high blood pressure and high levels of salt consumption and low levels of potassium intake. But the combination of high salt and low potassium appears to convey a stronger risk for cardiovascular disease and death than each mineral alone, the researchers said.
For the study, the research team collected data on 12,267 people who were part of the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey Linked Mortality File, from 1988-2006. In addition to mortality data, this survey contains dietary information.
To find out the role of salt and potassium and the risk of cardiovascular disease and death, the researchers looked at the levels of these minerals and the ratio between them.
After almost 15 years of follow-up, 2,270 people died. Of these, 825 died from cardiovascular disease — which includes stroke — and 443 died of heart disease.
The researchers then took into account variables such as gender, race and ethnicity, weight, high blood pressure, education, and physical activity. They found that high salt intake was associated with a 20% increased risk of death, while high potassium intake was associated with a 20% decreased risk of dying.
And — it appeared that high salt consumption combined with a low potassium intake was a double whammy, upping the risk factor for cardiovascular disease and heart disease even more.
The benefits of potassium in counterbalancing the effects of salt for controlling high blood pressure have been known for years, but get little attention in the media. Follow this health advice and protect your heart by boosting your potassium levels with healthy, healing foods. Fruits and vegetables are your best natural sources of potassium and they are also naturally low in sodium. With that in mind, here are the five best food sources of potassium to boost your heart health:
1. Swiss chard