Dr.Kamini Silvarajan MD/AAAM

Editorial Board: Kamini Silvarajan MD/AAAM

Salt Potassium Heart Disease

Potassium periodic table element color icon on white background vector

Recent research involving people have found that higher sodium intake was associated with increased mortality from cardiovascular disease. At the same time, higher potassium intake was associated with lower mortality risk. Most likely elevated blood pressure related to high sodium intake is one of the reasons for this increase in heart disease. High blood pressure increases the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Interestingly, vegetarians in general have a lower incidence of heart disease than non-vegetarians, even when they consume the same amount of salt per day as meat eaters. Why is this the case? Well, in general vegetarians consume higher amounts of potassium (found in fruit, vegetables and legumes) which is essential for heart health.

In general, the average potassium to sodium consumption ratio in is 1:2. This means that people are consuming twice as much salt as potassium – but the optimal ratio is 5:1, that is, 5 times as much potassium as sodium. So not only are we eating too much salt, but we are also not getting enough potassium, which compounds the risk for heart disease.

So what does this mean to you? the first step is to know how much salt you are consuming each day. See if you can track your sodium intake for a week. Ideally, try to limit your sodium intake to 2400 mg per day – this is about 1 tsp of salt. If you have have high blood pressure you should limit your intake to 1500mg. Processed and restaurant foods generally have the highest amounts of salt. 

Here are some examples: one cup of Chicken Noodle Soup has 870 mg salt; Big Mac has 1040 mg of salt and a medium fries adds another 300mg; and one slice of pepperoni pizza has 500-900 mg of salt.

Conversely, daily potassium consumption should be around 3500mg. The best way to get enough potassium is through increasing fruit and vegetable consumption, along with legumes. 

Here are some examples: one cup of legumes contains 800-1000 mg of potassium; one banana has about 500 mg of potassium; one avocado has about 600 mg potassium; one cup of cantaloupe has about 500 mg potassium; and one potato with the skin has 1000mg potassium (mostly found in the skin).

Generally, preparing food at home on a regular basis will give you sufficient control over the sodium content of your food and grant you to increase your potassium content.