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High-Sodium, Low-Potassium Diet Linked to Heart Risk

Study Suggests Increased Risk of Death From Heart Disease From High-Sodium, Low-Potassium Intake
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Analyzing Diet and Heart Risk continued...

Higher sodium intake was linked to an increased risk of death from any cause. Those in the highest sodium group ''had a 73% higher risk of death from all causes," compared to those in the lowest sodium group, Kuklina says. Those in the highest group took in more than 5,000 milligrams a day. Those in the lowest consumed 2,176 milligrams a day.

Those who consumed 4,069 milligrams of potassium a day had a 49% lower risk of death from all causes compared to those who took in 1,793 milligrams a day, she says. The higher the potassium intake, the lower the risk of death from heart disease.

The researchers did not find a significant link between sodium intake and cardiovascular disease death by itself, they say. However, they do not think this undermines the relationship between sodium and high blood pressure, which they say is ''well established." 

When they looked at the sodium-potassium ratio, they found those who had the worst ratio -- the highest sodium and lowest potassium -- had twice the risk of death from heart disease and a 50% increased risk of death from any cause during the follow-up.

Eat More Veggies?

Satin points to studies that have found salt reduction is often not linked with much blood pressure reduction.

In his view, paying attention to potassium intake may be enough. "The general public should ignore this study and focus on eating more salads, vegetables, and fruits," he says. He reasons that if people do that, the sodium will take care of itself.

Not so, says New York City Health Commissioner Thomas Farley, MD, MPH. He co-authored a commentary to accompany the study.

"Sodium and potassium were independently associated with mortality," he says. For that reason, he tells WebMD, people would have to lower sodium to reduce their risk of death from all causes.

One way to balance sodium and potassium, he says, is to avoid processed foods. He says as salt is added to processed foods, ''potassium tends to be washed out."

A sweet potato has about 694 milligrams of potassium. Eight ounces of yogurt has 531 milligrams, and a baked potato has 610 milligrams.

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