Letters to the Editor

Increasing Potassium Intake May Help Mitigate Cardiovascular Risk


Am Fam Physician. 2015 Sep 15;92(6):430.

Original article: Nonpharmacologic Management of Hypertension: What Works?

Issue date: June 1, 2015

See additional reader comments at: https://www.aafp.org/afp/2015/0601/p772.html

to the editor: Many of my patients with hypertension are interested in avoiding medication, so I appreciate the insights and practice pointers contained in this article.

Conspicuously absent from the discussion, however, is dietary potassium. Perhaps this is because Drs. Oza and Garcellano chose to rely primarily on recommendations from the 2013 American Heart Association/American College of Cardiology (AHA/ACC) guidelines on lifestyle management to reduce cardiovascular risk, which concluded there was insufficient evidence that increasing dietary potassium intake lowers blood pressure.1

The same year those guidelines were published, a meta-analysis evaluating the role of potassium in modulating cardiovascular risk factors reached a different conclusion, finding good evidence that increased potassium intake lowers blood pressure.2 The magnitude of the effect—3.5 mm Hg systolic and 2 mm Hg diastolic—is probably also clinically relevant.

The review by Drs. Oza and Garcellano mentioned the possible but far from conclusive benefits of dietary supplements such as garlic and cocoa. However, it is also worth emphasizing potassium's potential role in helping patients reduce their blood pressure. This advice is implicit in widely accepted antihypertensive dietary guidelines. For example, the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension diet, which the AHA/ACC guidelines endorse, is formulated to be higher in potassium than the average American diet.3

Persons at risk of hyperkalemia, such as those who have chronic kidney disease or take medicines that inhibit the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system, should use caution in increasing their dietary potassium intake. However, for other patients with hypertension, increasing dietary potassium may be another reason to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.

Author disclosure: No relevant financial affiliations.


1. Eckel RH, Jakicic JM, Ard JD, et al. 2013 AHA/ACC guideline on lifestyle management to reduce cardiovascular risk: a report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines [published corrections appear in Circulation. 2014;129(25 suppl 2):S100–S101, and Circulation. 2015;131(4):e326]. Circulation. 2014;129(25 suppl 2):S76–S99.

2. Aburto NJ, Hanson S, Gutierrez H, Hooper L, Elliott P, Cappuccio FP. Effect of increased potassium intake on cardiovascular risk factors and disease: systematic review and meta-analyses. BMJ. 2013;346:f1378.

3. Sacks FM, Svetkey LP, Vollmer WM, et al.; DASH-Sodium Collaborative Research Group. Effects on blood pressure of reduced dietary sodium and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet. N Engl J Med. 2001;344(1):3–10.

Send letters to afplet@aafp.org, or 11400 Tomahawk Creek Pkwy., Leawood, KS 66211-2680. Include your complete address, e-mail address, and telephone number. Letters should be fewer than 400 words and limited to six references, one table or figure, and three authors.

Letters submitted for publication in AFP must not be submitted to any other publication. Possible conflicts of interest must be disclosed at time of submission. Submission of a letter will be construed as granting the AAFP permission to publish the letter in any of its publications in any form. The editors may edit letters to meet style and space requirements.

This series is coordinated by Kenny Lin, MD, MPH, Associate Deputy Editor for AFP Online.



Copyright © 2015 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
This content is owned by the AAFP. A person viewing it online may make one printout of the material and may use that printout only for his or her personal, non-commercial reference. This material may not otherwise be downloaded, copied, printed, stored, transmitted or reproduced in any medium, whether now known or later invented, except as authorized in writing by the AAFP. Contact afpserv@aafp.org for copyright questions and/or permission requests.

Want to use this article elsewhere? Get Permissions


Nov 2021

Access the latest issue of American Family Physician

Read the Issue

Email Alerts

Don't miss a single issue. Sign up for the free AFP email table of contents.

Sign Up Now

Navigate this Article