If your blood pressure is higher than normal, a mineral imbalance in your diet may be at least partially responsible. Most Americans consume improper amounts of the potassium and sodium that regulate the force exerted on the walls of your arteries by blood pumped from the heart. Simply taking a pill might not offset dietary problems that affect blood pressure. Changes in your potassium level can be dangerous, especially if you have kidney disease. To lower your blood pressure, use the safe parameters of your diet to get the right amount of minerals from foods.
Daily Values of Potassium
According to the National Institutes of Health, only 5 percent of Americans get the full 4,700 mg of potassium per day recommended for good health. In addition to controlling blood pressure and heart rhythm, your body uses potassium to form new cells and extract energy from carbohydrates. The amount of dietary potassium used to curb your blood pressure changes from day to day and meal to meal, based on your sodium intake and your particular metabolism. While no one can say how much potassium will lower your blood pressure, achieving the recommended daily value will put you in the correct range to offset average sodium intakes.
Focusing on potassium alone ignores the greater influence of sodium on blood pressure, which is correlative. The more sodium you take in -- mainly from the salt added to foods -- the higher your blood pressure. Without enough potassium in your body to temper this action, high blood pressure can become chronic and raise your risk for potentially fatal heart disease. Because of potassium's interaction with sodium blood levels, taking a potassium supplement without reducing your sodium intake won't improve blood pressure. For this reason, the American Heart Association advises getting potassium food and letting your doctor prescribe any necessary mineral supplements and medications.
Drinking low-fat milk daily will help you achieve your calcium as well as potassium requirements. Meats and fish contain potassium, but plant-based foods have fewer detrimental health effects. Cooked dry beans have the greatest potassium concentration of all foods, with little of the sodium or saturated fat and none of the cholesterol that can harm your cardiovascular system. Cooked leafy greens, dried fruits, potatoes, sweet potatoes, papayas and many fruits are good sources of potassium.
As you choose potassium food sources, limit the sodium elements that negatively affect blood pressure. Rinse canned fish and beans to remove salt, and choose healthy preparation methods that limit salt. For example, avoid breaded and fried foods, pickled foods and cured meats. Limit potassium-rich fast foods such as tacos, hamburgers and french fries, which are high in sodium.
Is This an Emergency?
- National Institutes of Health; Sodium-Potassium Ratio Linked to Cardiovascular Disease Risk; January 2009
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010; January 2010
- American Heart Association: Potassium and High Blood Pressure
- National Heart Lung and Blood Institute; Your Guide to Lowering Your Blood Pressure with DASH; April 2006
- USDA: Nutrient Database