Are you consuming too much sodium and too little potassium?

Lisa Nelson, RD, LN Health Pro
  • I've shared information previously on the benefits of a high potassium diet and reduced blood pressure. However, another study has found an increased risk of death from heart disease to be linked to a diet high in sodium and low in potassium.

    High sodium, low potassium equals increased risk of death


    According to research Elena V. Kuklina, consuming a diet high in sodium and low in potassium results in a 50% increased risk of death from any cause and almost doubles the risk of death from heart disease. The study I'm referencing was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

    Study Participants

    Add This Infographic to Your Website or Blog With This Code:


    Researchers followed over 12,000 US adults. The participants did not follow a reduced salt diet nor did they have a history of heart conditions or stroke. Participants were followed for 15 years. During this time 2,270 participants died. Out of this number, 1268 died from cardiovascular disease.


    Study Results

    Study findings indicate an increased risk of death from heart disease is associated with a high sodium to potassium ratio.

    Individuals with the highest sodium intake (more than 5000 milligrams per day) had a 74% higher risk of death from all causes versus those with a low sodium intake (2176 milligrams per day).

    Individuals with a potassium intake of 4069 milligrams daily had a 49% reduced risk of death from all causes compared to those consuming 1793 milligrams per day.

    Dietary guidelines recommend your sodium intake be less than 1500 milligrams per day and potassium intake be at least 4700 milligrams daily.


    Is the research conclusive?


    Many studies have shown a connection between potassium and blood pressure. Evidence connecting sodium intake and blood pressure has not been as conclusive. Research establishing a link between sodium and potassium intake and heart disease has not been consistent to date.

    For this particular study, the researchers did not focus on how much sodium or potassium and individual consumed, but on the ratio of sodium to potassium. There is some evidence that indicates the ratio is more relevant than the individual amounts of each.

    This particular study did not find a significant connection between cardiovascular disease and sodium alone. That doesn't mean that the ratio of sodium to potassium should be ignored as not relevant.

    Participants with the worst sodium to potassium ratio (high sodium diet with low potassium intake) were twice as likely to diet from heart disease.

    What should you do?

    To reduce your risk of death due to heart disease, I recommend you reduce your sodium intake and increase your potassium intake. Here are two posts that give you more specific guidelines on how to achieve this:

    Can you use potassium to lower blood pressure?

    Lower Your Blood Pressure, Cut Sodium Intake

    Be sure to sign up for the free e-course 7 Natural Ways to Lower Blood Pressure at

Published On: July 16, 2011