For years I’ve been saying that it’s not just the amount of salt you’re eating that can cause high blood pressure, although too much salt is bad news. It’s also the ratio of sodium to potassium in your diet that can lead to high blood pressure.
Now, a new large-scale 15-year nationwide study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control shows that a high-salt, low potassium diet increases the risk of sudden cardiac death—significantly.
Many doctors are focused on lowering sodium in order to prevent high 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 high 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. As much as 10 years ago, Harvard researchers found that a diet high in potassium helps protect against stroke-related death in people who have high blood pressure levels. They studied more than 43,000 men over an eight-year period and found that the men who consumed an average of 4.3 grams of potassium a day had a significant reduction in stroke risk compared to those who consumed an average of only 2.4 grams. And a more recent study concluded that for people with blood pressure readings at the high end of the normal range, the risk of heart disease increased by 24 percent for every unit increase in a person's sodium-to-potassium ratio.
How Can These Findings Help You Prevent Sudden Cardiac Death?
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. For healthy people, your goal should be to aim for about 2.8 grams of sodium a day.
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.
I'm not a huge fan of potassium supplements because the amount of potassium that products may contain is limited to 99 mg per daily dose, or about the amount in two bites of a banana. You're much better off consuming potassium in foods.
Finally, if you're taking a diuretic to treat high blood pressure levels, pay special attention to this information. Diuretics are notorious for draining the body of minerals, so you need to be especially careful of your potassium level.
Now it’s your turn: Are you taking these important steps to prevent high blood pressure and sudden cardiac death?