Potassium Protects the Heart

Take in More for Better Cardiac Health

 

According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the leading cause of death and a major contributor to disability in this country. A recent study sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that in addition to cutting dietary sodium to improve heart health, Americans should increase consumption of a key mineral found in many fruits and vegetables: potassium.

The study of more than 12,000 adults reported that people eating a diet high in sodium and low in potassium have a 50 percent increased risk of death from any disease than average and about twice the risk of death from heart attacks. Sodium, a key component of salt, raises blood pressure, which in turn increases the risk of heart disease. Potassium has been found to offset sodium’s impact on blood pressure.

Current U.S. dietary guidelines recommend an adult daily potassium intake of 4,700 milligrams and a maximum sodium intake of 2,300 milligrams (about a teaspoon of salt); or less than 1,500 milligrams for people age 51 and older, African-Americans or those that suffer from hypertension, diabetes or chronic kidney disease.

The CDC reveals that the average American adult consumes 3,400 milligrams of sodium a day, about 80 percent from processed or restaurant foods. To achieve a healthier sodium-potassium ratio, the CDC recommends a diet that emphasizes fresh, unprocessed foods and plenty of fruits and vegetables. Foods high in potassium include sweet and white potatoes, spinach, tomatoes and bananas, as well as orange and prune juice, dates, plain yogurt and fish.

This article appears in the February 2012 issue of Natural Awakenings

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