The Importance of Potassium in Controlling Blood Pressure
Handling Blood Pressure
Blood pressure is the force that is exerted by circulating blood on the walls of blood vessels. As one of the main vital signs of the body, the pumping of blood from arteries to capillaries allows for fluid and nutrient exchange between the blood and body tissue. Hypertension is the condition named for when the pressure exerted on the walls of arteries is higher than normal. Hypertension usually shows no signs of symptoms, but is often detected after serious damage has been caused to vital organs such as the heart and arteries. While the exact causes of hypertension remain unknown, the risk factors are usually related to genetics, age, weight, too much salt intake, or sleep apnea. For that reason, it is important to take preventative measures before the onset of symptoms.
Introducing More Potassium to a Diet
There are several ways to manage the effects of high blood pressure on the body. In 2005, the updated Dietary Guidelines for Americans began to draw significant attention to findings that stated potassium had beneficial effects on high blood pressure. In fact, one of the main recommendations from the guidelines was to consume potassium rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables.
Benefits of More Potassium to a Diet
While some people may get too much sodium, they usually do not get enough potassium. The Third National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey confirmed the benefits of potassium on blood pressure. The information was published in the February 2001 edition of the Archives of Internal Medicine, compiling data on more than seventeen thousand adults. The data indicated that adequate potassium amounts could be taken from fruits and vegetables to lower blood pressure. Results from the data showed that a diet with 8.5 daily servings of fruits & vegetables (which provides an average 4,100 mg of potassium) can lower blood pressure by 7.2/2.8 mmHg (systolic/diastolic) in people diagnosed with high blood pressure, compared to diets that provide only 3.5 servings of fruits & vegetables (1,700 mg of potassium). Potassium is beneficial as it can blunt the negative effects of sodium on blood pressure, reduce the risk for kidney stones and possibly reduce bone loss.
Recommended Potassium Diet Foods
There are several food options that can help provide recommended doses of potassium, providing a varied and healthy menu. Some of the more recommended foods are:
- Citrus Fruit
- Dried Apricots
- Fish (including salmon, flounder and tuna)
- Green leafy vegetables
- Whole grain cereals
Having a large and varied supply of potassium rich foods will help to push a person's blood pressure down.
Check with a Doctor Before Starting a New Diet
Before increasing the intake of potassium, or before any major diet change, it is important to check with a doctor to see what a safe level of intake is. Some people for example, such as people affected by a kidney disease, may need to avoid both potassium and salt.
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