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High Sodium, Low Potassium Linked To Increased Risk Of Cardiovascular Disease

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

Two nutrients, sodium and potassium, may work together to affect blood pressure and heart disease risk, according to a new analysis from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of the National Institutes of Health. When the ratio of sodium to potassium is too high, risk for cardiovascular disease was increased.

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Among 2,974 participants in a long-term observational study of the effect of lifestyle changes on blood pressure, there was a 24 percent increase in the risk of cardiovascular disease per unit of increase in the ratio of sodium to potassium. This finding suggests that lowering sodium intake while increasing potassium consumption may reduce cardiovascular disease, according to the researchers.

Joint Effects of Sodium and Potassium Intake on Subsequent Cardiovascular Disease: The Trials of Hypertension Prevention (TOHP) Follow-up Study is published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. Participants in the TOHP studies had high normal blood pressure levels, or prehypertension, defined as 120-139/80-89mmHg.

Nearly one in three adult Americans has high blood pressure, defined as 140/90 mmHg or higher and about 37 percent have pre-hypertension. Previously, TOHP researchers have shown that long-term interventions to reduce sodium intake in participants with prehypertension can lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. The latest findings suggest that a high sodium/potassium ratio is a stronger indicator of increased risk of cardiovascular disease than high levels of sodium or potassium alone.