Harvard Heart Letter

Heart beat: Tapping the power of potassium

Heart beat

Tapping the power of potassium

When it comes to fighting high blood pressure, the average American diet delivers too much sodium and too little potassium. Eating to reverse this imbalance could prevent or control high blood pressure and translate into fewer heart attacks, strokes, and deaths from heart disease (Journal of Clinical Hypertension, July 2008).

Most Americans get barely half of the recommended amount of potassium "" 4,700 milligrams (mg) a day. Fruits, vegetables, beans, and some seeds offer good ways to get more of it. Bananas (about 425 mg of potassium in a medium-sized one) are often held up as the poster child for potassium, but there are better sources. A medium-sized baked potato with the skin delivers nearly 1,000 mg. Halibut, raisins, acorn squash, watermelon, and milk are also good sources. If you have heart failure or are taking a diuretic, talk with your doctor before adding more potassium to your diet.

We've posted a list of good sources of potassium at health.harvard.edu/130.

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