Harvard Heart Letter

Heart Beat: Heart, arteries thrive with more potassium

Most of us could use more special K in our diets. Not the cereal, the mineral — potassium — which the periodic table of elements lists as "K." The average American gets barely half of the potassium needed each day to keep blood pressure in check and maintain healthy blood vessels, nerves, muscles, and bones.

Dutch researchers estimate that increasing the average intake to the recommended target of 4,700 milligrams (mg) a day would lower the risk of dying from stroke by as much as 15% and from heart disease by as much as 11%. Those reductions are in line with what we could get from cutting back on sodium. Doing both at once could really make a difference.

You don't need pills to get more potassium. Eating more vegetables, fruits, and low-fat dairy foods can do the trick.

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