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Cut Salt, Increase Potassium to Live Longer: Study Says

Update Date: Apr 05, 2013 10:04 PM EDT
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Millions of lives around the world can be saved every year if people cut down on their salt and increase potassium intake by consuming more fruits and vegetables, according to new studies published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).

The study found that by adding an extra two to three servings of fruit or vegetables per day - which are high in potassium - was beneficial. Such a strategy will save millions of lives every year from heart disease and stroke, experts said.

The BMJ study on the effects of potassium intake analyzed dozens of international studies on salt and potassium and high blood pressure. High blood pressure is defined as a reading greater than or equal to 140/90.

The results showed that increasing potassium in the diet to 3-4g a day reduced blood pressure in adults.

This increased level of potassium intake was also linked to a 24% lower risk of stroke in those adults.

Existing evidence shows that reducing salt intake lowers blood pressure and thereby reduces the risk of stroke and heart disease. Less is known about the potential benefits of increasing potassium intake, but lower potassium consumption has been linked with elevated blood pressure.

The World Health Organization has set a global goal to reduce dietary salt intake to 5-6 g (about one teaspoon) per person per day by 2025, yet salt intake in many countries is currently much higher than this.

Meanwhile, a separate study on salt intake analyzed the results of 34 previous trials involving more than 3,000 people. The study was led by researchers at the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, Queen Mary, University of London.

The study concluded that modest reduction in salt intake for four or more weeks led to a noteworthy dip in blood pressure in people with both raised and normal blood pressure. This effect occurred in both men and women, irrespective of ethnic group.

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