Cutting down on dietary sodium is one way of reducing blood pressure. Another way of doing so is by boosting potassium consumption, which has sodium’s reverse effect.
Researchers have found that the ratio of sodium-to-potassium in subjects’ urine was a much stronger predictor of cardiovascular disease than sodium or potassium alone.
Good potassium sources include fruits, vegetables, dairy foods and fish. Foods that are especially rich in potassium include potatoes and sweet potatoes, fat-free milk and yogurt, tuna, lima beans, bananas, tomato sauce and orange juice. Potassium also is available in supplements.
“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 Paul Whelton, epidemiologist and president of Loyola University Health System.
Researchers determined average sodium and potassium intake during two phases of a study known as the Trials of Hypertension Prevention (THP). They collected 24-hour urine samples intermittently during an 18-month period in one trial and during a 36-month period in a second trial.
The 2,974 participants initially aged 30-to-54 and with blood pressure readings just under levels considered high, were followed for 10-15 years to see if they would develop cardiovascular disease. Whelton chaired the THP.
Those with the highest sodium levels in their urine were 20 percent more likely to suffer strokes, heart attacks or other forms of cardiovascular disease compared with their counterparts with the lowest sodium levels. However, this link was not strong enough to be considered statistically significant.
Conversely, participants with the highest sodium-to-potassium ratio in urine were 50 percent more likely to experience cardiovascular disease than those with the lowest sodium-to-potassium ratios. This link was statistically significant.
Ideally, healthy 19-to-50 year-old adults should consume no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day — equivalent to one teaspoon of table salt. More than 95 percent of American men and 75 percent of American women in this age range exceed this amount, said a Loyola release.
To lower blood pressure and blunt the effects of salt, adults should consume 4.7 grams of potassium per day unless they have a clinical condition or medication need that is a contraindication to increased potassium intake. These findings were published in the January issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine. The News, 8-Feb-09