We’ve all heard since we were young, if you have high blood pressure you have to cut your salt. Now scientists have found more people with high salt levels are dying of cardiovascular and all other causes—when they also have low potassium levels.
Sodium is known to raise blood pressure and stiffen arteries. Potassium activates nitric oxide, which relaxes arteries and combats high blood pressure. Sodium also interferes with the body’s ability to use nitric oxide. Read more at National Institutes of Health on sodium-potassium.
A poor ratio of salt to potassium is found with more deaths from cardiovascular causes and from all causes. It’s a question of balance, according to a recent study in the Archives of Internal Medicine put out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
And of course, the study does not say that the high-salt-low-potassium levels are what actually killed people—just that many deaths were associated with the poor ratio. Other causes could certainly be more directly responsible for the deaths they counted. Perhaps a reasonable conclusion we might make is that if you eat too much salt you might also be prone to make other less-than-ideal lifestyle and nutrition choices. Geez, these days we can’t get away with anything…
But either way, folks with high blood pressure or congestive heart failure must carefully ration consumption of foods high in sodium–which includes almost anything you buy in packages or eat in restaurants—and eat lots of foods high in potassium. Thankfully there are dozens of tasty foods loaded with it, so most people don’t have to look to supplements. Like have a baked potato—one of the richest and best-tasting sources of potassium you can get. By the way, start gradually substituting no-fat yogurt for your sour cream. Then when you use just yogurt on your baked potato you get another boost to potassium along with other nutrition benefits.
Studies show that Americans get about 75% of their sodium from prepared foods and restaurant meals. I’ve personally found that if I eat mostly fresh foods and those I cook from scratch, I don’t have to totally avoid salting my food. So it may be that if you don’t get the gross overload of sodium from prepared foods, there’s room for enough salt to safely make your own cooked foods taste very good. Naturally, though, your doctor is the last word on all of this.
Have a happy, healthy new year—and eat some spinach in your scrambled eggs tomorrow to combat the potato chips and cheese in your NYE feast tonight…