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This “Good” Salt Actually Helps Your Heart

Apr. 1, 2015|510 views
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Yesterday, I wrote about new research that shows that potassium salts, found naturally in fruits and vegetables, are good for strong healthy bones. Today I have more good news. Potassium salts are also good for your cardiovascular system.

Really?! Salt is good for my heart?

I know it seems to go against conventional wisdom. We’ve been told for so long that salt is bad for our blood pressure that most people view salt as mildly naughty, at best. And potentially dangerous at worst.

Well, maybe so, provided you have uncontrolled essential hypertension (high blood pressure), which is an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease. And if you’re actually salt sensitive (not everyone is). But that has to do with table salt; sodium chloride. I’m talking about potassium salts, such as potassium bicarbonate or potassium citrate—both of which occur naturally in fruits and vegetables.

Potassium works almost opposite to sodium in the body. Rather than potentially raising blood pressure by constricting blood vessels, potassium works to relax blood vessels, which reduces blood pressure. In essence, potassium counteracts sodium’s effects. Just as a high intake of sodium—from table salt in and on food—can raise blood pressure, potassium salts—from fresh fruits and vegetables—can help lower blood pressure.

Earlier this year, experts at the American Heart Association published research that showed postmenopausal women who eat potassium-rich foods are significantly less likely to suffer stroke or heart attack than women who do not consume these foods.

"Previous studies have shown that potassium consumption may lower blood pressure. But whether potassium intake could prevent stroke or death wasn't clear," said Sylvia Wassertheil-Smoller, Ph.D., study senior author and professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY. “Our findings give women another reason to eat their fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are good sources of potassium, and potassium not only lowers postmenopausal women's risk of stroke, but also death.”

What potassium-rich foods are prominent in your diet? Do you get plenty of potassium from sources such as white and sweet potatoes, bananas, and white beans? If not, you might want to start working these foods into your diet.

Arjun Seth, Yasmin Mossavar-Rahmani, Victor Kamensky, Brian Silver, Kamakshi Lakshminarayan, Ross Prentice, Linda Van Horn, and Sylvia Wassertheil-Smoller. Potassium Intake and Risk of Stroke in Women With Hypertension and Nonhypertension in the Women’s Health Initiative. Stroke, September 2014 DOI: 10.1161/STROKEAHA.114.006046 

Linda A. J. van Mierlo; Arno Greyling; Peter L. Zock; Frans J. Kok; Johanna M. Geleijnse. Suboptimal Potassium Intake and Potential Impact on Population Blood Pressure. Archives of Internal Medicine, 2010; 170 (16): 1501-1502 DOI: 10.1001/archinternmed.2010.284