MAYWOOD, Ill. -- Most people know that too much sodium from foods can increase blood pressure.
A new study suggests that people trying to lower their blood pressure should also boost their intake of potassium, which has the opposite effect to sodium.
Researchers found that the ratio of sodium-to-potassium in subjects' urine was a much stronger predictor of cardiovascular disease than sodium or potassium alone.
"There isn't as much focus on potassium, but potassium seems to be effective in lowering blood pressure and the combination of a higher intake of potassium and lower consumption of sodium seems to be more effective than either on its own in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease," said Dr. Paul Whelton, senior author of the study in the January 2009 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine. Whelton is an epidemiologist and president and CEO of Loyola University Health System.
Researchers determined average sodium and potassium intake during two phases of a study known as the Trials of Hypertension Prevention. They collected 24-hour urine samples intermittently during an 18-month period in one trial and during a 36-month period in a second trial. The 2,974 study participants initially aged 30-to-54 and with blood pressure readings just under levels considered high, were followed for 10-15 years to see if they would develop cardiovascular disease. Whelton was national chair of the Trials of Hypertension Prevention.
Those with the highest sodium levels in their urine were 20 percent more likely to suffer strokes, heart attacks or other forms of cardiovascular disease compared with their counterparts with the lowest sodium levels. However this link was not strong enough to be considered statistically significant.
By contrast, participants with the highest sodium-to-potassium ratio in urine were 50 percent more likely to experience cardiovascular disease than those with the lowest sodium-to-p
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Loyola University Health System