Potassium and High Blood Pressure
Epidemiological studies have proved the inverse relationship between potassium intake and blood pressure. Researchers have concluded that low potassium intake may be one of the contributors to high blood pressure. These studies have proven the fact that people with high potassium intake have lower blood pressure compared to those who have low potassium intake. Data collected on studies by the Third National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey in the United States indicated that higher dietary potassium was associated with significantly lower blood pressure. It is a fact that blood pressure is directly related to the balance of sodium and potassium in the blood. Hence high intakes of potassium can both prevent and control hypertension especially in those who cannot or will not easily restrict their sodium intake.
A recent study from St. Georgeís Medical School in London, published in the April 2005 issue of Hypertension compared the blood pressure lowering effects of potassium chloride against that of potassium citrate found that both the compounds have the same blood pressure lowering effect. Potassium chloride is taken as a dietary supplement whereas potassium citrate is found naturally in many foods.
It is better to get potassium from natural sources mainly fruits and vegetables rather than supplements. This is one of the reasons for the success of the DASH diet, which is high in the number of daily fruit and vegetable servings. Although the mechanism is unclear it has been proved by studies that high potassium intake has a beneficial effect on hypertension.
Sources of PotassiumMost foods contain potassium but fruits and vegetables have the highest content.
Bananas, strawberries, cantaloupes, honeydews melon, prune juice, prunes, orange juice, oranges, tomato juice, tomato, potatoes (with skin), sweet potatoes, artichokes, mushrooms, spinach cooked, and winter squash have high potassium content. Raisins, almonds, brazil nuts, peanuts, dried apricots, dried figs, sunflower seeds and molasses are also good sources of potassium.
Lima beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, milk and yogurt also have high potassium. All meats including red meat, chicken and fish such as salmon, sardines, cod and flounder are also good sources of potassium.
Action of PotassiumPotassium is an important mineral that controls nerve and muscle function. The heart muscle beats at a normal rhythm because of potassium. It is involved in both electric and cellular body functions. The kidneys help keep the potassium levels in the blood normal. Too much or too little potassium is dangerous.
A moderate increase in dietary potassium together with a reduction in sodium intake may be beneficial especially for those who have high blood pressure. However it is contra indicated if there are any problems with the kidneys especially in those who have kidney stones or are on dialysis and drugs including diuretics and ACE inhibitors.
Most people will benefit from increased potassium intake from natural sources even if their salt intake is low and their blood pressure is within the normal range. This could be so because potassium works synergistically with other nutrients found in fruits and vegetables.