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Study: Potassium Boosts Heart Health, Salt Harms It
Date:7/11/2011

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, July 11 (HealthDay News) -- Too much salt and too little potassium in your diet may boost your risk for cardiovascular disease and death, a new study shows.

Earlier studies had found an association between high blood pressure and high levels of salt consumption and low levels of potassium intake. The combination of high salt -- sometimes called sodium -- and low potassium appears to convey a stronger risk for cardiovascular disease and death than each mineral alone, the study authors said.

"The combination of high sodium and low potassium is really a double whammy for cardiovascular risk and for mortality," said lead researcher Dr. Frank B. Hu, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Although sodium and potassium act independently, high potassium levels can counteract some of the effect of high sodium, Hu said. "But the adverse effects of high sodium cannot be completely offset by a high potassium diet," he said.

For the study, published in the July 11 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, Hu's team collected data on 12,267 people who were part of the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey Linked Mortality File, from 1988-2006. In addition to mortality data, this survey contains dietary information.

To find out the role of salt and potassium and the risk of cardiovascular disease and death, the researchers looked at the levels of these minerals and the ratio between them. Over an average of 14.8 years of follow-up, 2,270 people died. Of these, 825 died from cardiovascular disease -- which includes stroke -- and 443 died of heart disease.

After taking into account variables such as gender, race and ethnicity, weight, high blood pressure, education and physical activity, Hu's group found that high salt intake was associated with a 20 percent increased risk of death, while high potassium intake was associated w
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