High Sodium Equals High Risk

Excess sodium combined with low potassium doubles heart attack risk

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Americans love salt. That affection doesn't go both ways. Consuming too much sodium and too little potassium may bring on unnecessary heath risks.

Americans who consume too much sodium and not enough potassium are putting themselves at twice the risk for a heart attack. The findings were published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

"Don't consume more than 1500 mg of sodium daily."

This is the first study to examine the link between a high sodium and low potassium diet, and the risk of mortality. Researchers reviewed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a survey that assesses the health status of adults in the U.S.

Dr. Elena Kuklina, M.D., a study investigator and a nutritional epidemiologist in the division for heart disease and stroke prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the research results were especially dismaying since the average U.S. adult consumes 3,300 milligrams of sodium each day.

The recommended amount is 1,500 milligrams for adults over age 51, African-Americans, those with hypertension, diabetes or those with chronic kidney disease. That accounts for more than half the population over the age of 2. The remainder should consume no more than 2,300 milligrams daily.

Salt contains 2,325 milligrams of sodium per teaspoon.

Dr. Kuklina said the research suggests a need to reduce sodium in processed foods. Processed food and restaurant food account for 80 percent of an average person's sodium intake.

Salt intake can be reduced by eating fewer processed foods and choosing fresh fruits and vegetables over frozen and canned. Reading nutrition labels to weed out foods high in salt is also suggested.

The study also recommends increasing potassium intake. Dietary guidelines suggest consuming 4,700 milligrams of potassium each day. Potassium-rich foods include avocados, leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits, blackberries, carrots and potatoes.

Such changes can help lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of other serious health problems.

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Review Date: 
July 14, 2011
Last Updated:
July 18, 2011