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Potassium May Counteract the Negative Effects of Sodium on the Heart

American researchers have made the link between low potassium, high sodium, and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). They have also found that increasing potassium levels may help lower the risk of CVD.

The researchers were from Harvard University, Emory University, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They analyzed data from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

Their findings were published in the June 2011 edition of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

The participants included 12,267 people who were at least 20 years old. Each individual was given physical examinations and interviewed about their diet and lifestyle, and participated in follow-ups for an average of 14.8 years. At the conclusion of the study, 2,270 (36%) participants had died from CVD.

The researchers factored in sex, race, body mass index, and other lifestyle factors and concluded that high sodium levels led to an increased risk of CVD but high potassium levels lowered the risk of CVD. The worst combination for heart health was low potassium and high sodium, leading to a 46% increased risk of developing CVD.

The scientists believe that the high sodium induces increased blood pressure and hypertension. High potassium levels activate the release of nitric acid and counteract these effects.

Potassium can be derived from many dietary sources, including bananas, orange juice, fish, meats, almonds, peanuts, legumes, orange vegetables, fruits, milk, and yogurt. This essential vitamin has also been linked with prevention of hypoglycemia, diabetes, obesity and kidney disease.

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