Could a Pinch of Potassium Keep Your Heart Pumping Strong?

Heart failure affects nearly 5.8 million Americans, and when the heart isn’t functioning properly, fluids build up in the body. To help remove these excess fluids, doctors often prescribe diuretics. However, one disadvantage of taking diuretics is the loss of potassium from the body. Fear not, though, as new research suggests that supplementing with potassium can potentially improve survival rates for heart failure patients already using diuretics.

Potassium: An Essential Mineral

Potassium is an essential mineral required for various bodily functions, including regulating heart muscle contractions and maintaining proper fluid balance. Depletion of potassium in the body can lead to dangerous heart rhythm disturbances and a myriad of other health issues.

Since diuretics can cause potassium loss, doctors often recommend potassium supplements to heart failure patients taking diuretics to counteract this effect. But until recently, it had not been established whether potassium supplementation could lead to better health outcomes.

Promising Study Results

A team of researchers led by Charles Leonard, a senior research investigator at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics (CCEB), delved into this topic by analyzing data from heart failure patients who began taking diuretics between 1999 and 2007. Half of these patients also took potassium supplements.

The analysis, published online in the journal PLoS One, revealed that the overall death risk among the entire group was 9 percent per year. However, for the half of the patients who took potassium supplements, the risk of death was 16 percent lower.

“Using potassium supplementation for patients receiving loop diuretic therapy may be a relatively inexpensive way to save lives,” said Sean Hennessy, Ph.D., in a Penn Medicine news release.

The Importance of Adequate Potassium Intake

Potassium’s potential positive impact on heart failure patients taking diuretics underscores the overall importance of maintaining an adequate level of this crucial mineral in the body. It is essential not only for heart health but also for proper muscle function, nerve signaling, and blood pressure regulation.

To ensure they are meeting their daily potassium needs, individuals should consume a varied diet that includes potassium-rich foods like bananas, avocados, spinach, sweet potatoes, and legumes. The National Institutes of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements (NIH) recommends that adult men and women (ages 19 and older) should consume at least 2,600 and 2,500 milligrams of potassium per day, respectively.

Discuss with Your Doctor

Heart failure patients and others who take diuretics should consider discussing potassium supplementation options with their healthcare provider. The optimal dosage to prevent both depletion and excessive intake of potassium will depend on the individual’s specific situation and health history.

Keep in mind that the aforementioned study focused on heart failure patients who began taking diuretics, and its findings may not apply to all users of diuretics. In addition, potassium supplements can have side effects and interact with medications, so it’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional before using them.


The study led by Charles Leonard and his team underscore the potential life-saving benefits of potassium supplementation for heart failure patients taking diuretics. As an essential mineral, potassium plays various crucial roles in the body, particularly in regulating heart muscle contractions and maintaining proper fluid balance.

If you or someone you know is a heart failure patient using diuretics, discussing the possibility of potassium supplementation with a healthcare professional could be a relatively low-cost way of significantly improving health outcomes. Ultimately, maintaining a diet that includes potassium-rich foods and working with your healthcare provider to ensure proper mineral intake can go a long way in maintaining overall health and well-being.