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Think Potassium For Lower Blood Pressure – And Worry Less About Sodium
February 5, 2021 Comments..0

Salt, or sodium, has been so demonized for its effect of raising blood pressure that we’ve come to think of it as an ingredient for heart disease. But the fact is that salt is not quite the culprit it’s made out to be. As always, the truth of the matter is much more complicated.

Sodium works in conjunction with other minerals, primarily calcium, magnesium and potassium. Good health depends on the right balance of these essential elements. Along with many other important functions, they help to regulate blood pressure by Blood balance balancing fluid levels in the blood through the kidneys. Far from being a villain, sodium plays a vital role in this process.

This group of minerals, however, needs to work in concert and when they get out of balance is when the problem starts. And since the typical modern diet tends to be high in salt, it’s most often excess sodium that knocks our blood chemistry out of kilter: hence, the demon salt.

So it is that salt in its infamy has hogged the limelight over the decades. In the meantime, calcium has become a common nutritional supplement. Magnesium has also received a good deal of attention in recent years and is frequently recommended for lower blood pressure. The final partner, potassium, is only now getting a closer look – and the findings could be of great benefit to many hypertension sufferers.

Nearly 3000 volunteers with borderline high blood pressure were followed for 10 to 15 years. Those with high sodium levels were 20 percent more likely to suffer strokes, heart attacks and other forms of heart disease compared to those with lower sodium levels. However, those with the highest sodium to potassium ratios (in other words, the greatest imbalance) were 50 percent more likely to experience cardiovascular consequences.

These figures show the balance of minerals to be far more important in determining heart disease than sodium levels alone. The researchers also believe that potassium has the ability to counteract some of the negative effects of excess sodium, but its level is too low in many of us.

So how can you ensure that you consume an adequate amount of potassium? Well, potassium supplements are available but they should be taken with care since excess potassium (just like excess sodium) can have undesirable consequences. And there is little evidence supporting potassium supplements for lower blood pressure. Therefore, the best way to get potassium, as with all nutrients, is through natural foods in your diet.

Foods rich in potassium include dried apricots, raisins, prunes and other dried fruits; bananas, avocados, tomatoes, potatoes, oranges and orange juice; and many other fruits and vegetables. Many foods of animal origin are also high in potassium and include many dairy products, fish, poultry and red meat. A quick web search will provide you a very long list.

In fact, a good supply of potassium can be found in the majority of natural foods. So why do so many people acquire a mineral deficiency or imbalance? The reason is that the snacks, fast food and processed foods we eat so much of are almost always high in sodium and low in other essential minerals.

The solution is simple: eating a varied diet rich in whole, natural foods will nearly always ensure a healthy balance of minerals and other nutrients. The point is not to consume extra potassium in order to cover for salty snacks and processed foods. But when a proper balance of minerals – including a sensible level of sodium – is consumed as part of a healthy diet there is rarely a need for sodium-restricted diets and artificial salt substitutes.

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