The impact of sodium and potassium on hypertension risk

Semin Nephrol. 2014 May;34(3):257-72. doi: 10.1016/j.semnephrol.2014.04.003. Epub 2014 Apr 18.


The pathogenic role of sodium surfeit in primary hypertension is widely recognized but that of potassium deficiency usually has been ignored or at best assigned subsidiary status. Weighing the available evidence, we recently proposed that the chief environmental factor in the pathogenesis of primary hypertension and the associated cardiovascular risk is the interaction of the sodium surfeit and potassium deficiency in the body. Here, we present the major evidence highlighting the relationship between high-sodium intake and hypertension. We then examine the blood pressure-lowering effects of potassium in conjunction with the pernicious impact of potassium deficiency on hypertension and cardiovascular risk. We conclude with summarizing recent human trials that have probed the joint effects of sodium and potassium intake on hypertension and its cardiovascular sequelae. The latter studies lend considerable fresh support to the thesis that the interaction of the sodium surfeit and potassium deficiency in the body, rather than either disturbance by itself, is the critical environmental factor in the pathogenesis of hypertension.

Keywords: Sodium intake; cardiovascular risk; potassium intake; sodium/potassium ratio.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Hypertension / etiology*
  • Potassium / metabolism
  • Potassium Deficiency / physiopathology
  • Potassium, Dietary / administration & dosage*
  • Risk
  • Sodium / metabolism
  • Sodium, Dietary / administration & dosage*


  • Potassium, Dietary
  • Sodium, Dietary
  • Sodium
  • Potassium