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What Role Does Potassium Play in Blood Pressure? A Detailed Review

High blood pressure is also known as hypertension. It affects over a billion people worldwide. Studies have shown that over 75 million of these are Americans.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), hypertension contributes to over 45% of heart disease deaths and 51% stroke-related deaths.

Recent studies have demonstrated that eating a high salt diet (which translates to eating sodium) can cause hypertension.

The latest review, documented in the American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism, shows that taking in excess sodium is not the most important dietary factor; potassium plays an important role.

The role of potassium

Potassium, like sodium, is an electrolyte. It is necessary for the transmission of messages via nerves. It also plays a vital role in muscle contraction. Potassium keeps your heart beating and facilitates the movement of nutrients into cells and the removal of cellular waste. Potassium is also involved in the maintenance of healthy bones. A potassium-rich diet reduces your risk of kidney stones as well.

According to this review, decreasing sodium intake is essential to lower blood pressure. However, there is evidence that increasing dietary potassium may also reduce your risk of hypertension.

Foods that are high in potassium include:

· Salmon and tuna

· Eggs

· Yogurt

· Mushrooms

· Fat-free milk

· Bran

· Almonds and macadamia nuts

The current review explored the links between sodium, potassium, and the sodium-potassium ratio, delving into several studies in the field and drawing conclusions about the benefits of potassium.

This investigation involved population and intervention studies and research into the molecular mechanisms involved.

The review found several population studies demonstrating that high dietary potassium, as rated by dietary recall or urinary potassium, was associated with lower blood pressure, not regarding the level of sodium intake.

Other studies examining potassium supplements specifically gave similar findings.

Aside from population studies, the researchers also looked at sodium-potassium studies in rodent models. There is evidence that the human body uses sodium to check potassium blood levels.

The researchers concluded that potassium is vital for maintaining normal blood pressure. Sodium plays an important role, undoubtedly, but reducing salt intake alone may not necessarily help control hypertension.

It is important to note that increasing potassium levels in one’s diet will require much effort. As humans evolved, we ate a lot of fruits, roots, vegetables, grains, and beans, all of which were enriched with potassium. However, sodium was not so easy to come by, so humans evolved to crave salt. Since then, the food industry has satisfied our natural desire for salt by mixing it into processed foods.

At the same time, there has been a steady decrease in dietary potassium intake as we move away from fresh vegetables and fruits.

It is worth noting that a typical Western diet contains a large amount of sodium and deficient potassium. This causes a significant increase in your risk of developing high blood pressure.

How much potassium do we need?

Because the human body evolved to deal with high potassium, low sodium diet, consuming an adequate amount of dietary potassium is very important.

2004 report by the Institute of Medicine advised adults to take no less than 4.7 grams of potassium daily to reduce blood pressure. Consuming this amount of potassium will counter the effect of salt and reduce the risk of bone loss and kidney stones.

Health authorities have recommended that potassium content be inscribed on food labels to help buyers make informed decisions about their potassium intake.

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