High Salt + Low Potassium = High Risk of Sudden Death

by Dr. Stephen Sinatra
Filed Under: Heart Health, Food and Nutrition, Nutrients and Additives
Last Reviewed 02/06/2014

Oranges are a good source of potassium, which relaxes your arterial walls and promotes healthy blood pressure.For years I’ve been saying that it’s not just the amount of salt you’re eating that’s detrimental to your blood pressure, although too much salt is bad news. But it’s also the ratio of sodium to potassium in your diet. Now, new evidence is showing just how important that ratio is to your heart health.


A large-scale 15-year nationwide study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control showed that a high-salt, low potassium diet increases the risk of sudden death
from cardiovascular disease—significantly. This is important information to heed.

Many doctors are focused on lowering sodium for healthy blood pressure. But just as important as lowering your sodium consumption is increasing your potassium intake. Potassium relaxes your arterial walls, which helps to bring blood pressure back into the healthy range. In fact, Harvard researchers have found that a diet high in potassium helps to protect against stroke-related deaths in people who have high blood pressure.

So what do these findings mean for you?

1. Lighten up on the salt shaker, especially if you already have high blood pressure. Instead, season your foods with fresh herbs and spices, such as basil, garlic, oregano, rosemary, chives, parsley, and onion. On rare occasions when you do use a pinch of salt, go with Celtic or Himalayan Sea salt.   

2. Watch for hidden salt in prepared foods. Your goal should be to aim for less than 1,500 mg of sodium a day, which is 2/3 of a teaspoon of table salt.

3. Strive to eat 3,000-4,000 mg of potassium a day if you don’t have renal (kidney) problems. Good sources of potassium include baked potatoes, coconut water, bananas, oranges, raisins, squash, apricots, and eggplant.

Now it’s your turn: Have you found ways to season your food without salt?

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