Women should take a special interest in watching their dietary potassium levels. Most American women don’t get enough potassium every day. You need adequate potassium minerals to build and sustain muscle mass and burn carbohydrates for energy. Potassium also acts to balance the effects of sodium on blood pressure, to prevent high blood pressure and heart attacks. Women’s risks for these conditions increase with age. Your diet can improve your outlook for cardiovascular and musculoskeletal health.
Recommended Versus Average Potassium Levels
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that adult females get 4,700 mg of potassium per day, but the average intake for most is just 2,500 mg. The USDA reports that nearly all women, especially African Americans and those with high blood pressure, need to increase their consumption of potassium from foods. Exceptions include individuals with kidney disease and those who take ACE-inhibitor medication, whose doctors should regulate their potassium levels.
Relation to Sodium Intake
Low potassium intake may not be enough to offset normal sodium intakes of 2,300 mg a day or less. Inadequate potassium is even less likely to inhibit high sodium levels, further increasing the chances of your developing high blood pressure. The USDA relates that most American women consume far more than the average daily recommended amount of sodium. You get most of your dietary sodium from the added salt in processed, restaurant or home-prepared foods. The greater your sodium consumption, the higher your blood pressure may be.
A high potassium-to-sodium ratio reduces your risks for heart problems, including high blood pressure. Preserving your muscle tissue strength can avert strains, tears and the need for surgical repair. If your diet provides less than the average recommended female potassium levels, the USDA advises increasing your mineral intake via food sources, not supplements.
Dietary Potassium Sources
To preserve your potassium-to-sodium balance, choose potassium sources that contain little or no added salt. These include most fruits and unprocessed meats, vegetables, low-fat milk and yogurt. Unsalted nuts and low-sodium cooked dry beans are additional healthy potassium foods. Low-fat and low-sugar foods in these categories will help you maintain a healthy weight and reduce your cardiovascular risk, which increases after menopause. Include these foods in amounts that remain within your calorie boundaries.
- National Institutes of Health: Potassium in Diet; May 2011
- National Heart Lung and Blood Institute; High Blood Pressure; April 2011
- American Heart Association; Understand Your Risk for High Blood Pressure; January 2011
- USDA: Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010
- American Heart Association; Understand Your Risk of Heart Attack; June 2011