How managing your sodium and potassium balance can lower blood pressure
If you have high blood pressure, you already know that it's important to limit your sodium intake. Sodium promotes water retention, and excess water in the body drives up blood pressure readings.
But I've found that many people are unfamiliar with the need to consume extra potassium in order to lower blood pressure. Potassium relaxes arterial walls, which helps bring blood pressure back into a healthy range, as well as helping to prevent heart attacks and strokes. As much as 10 years ago, Harvard researchers found that a diet high in potassium helps protect against stroke-related death in people who have high blood pressure. They studied more than 43,000 men over an eight-year period and found that the men who consumed an average of 4.3 grams of potassium a day had a significant reduction in stroke risk compared to those who consumed an average of only 2.4 grams. And a more recent study concluded that for people with blood pressure readings at the high end of the normal range, the risk of heart disease increased by 24 percent for every unit increase in a person's sodium-to-potassium ratio.
Pump Up Your Potassium Intake
To help lower blood pressure, always strive to consume more potassium than sodium, and make 3 grams of potassium a day your minimum goal. You'll have the best odds for success if you follow a cardiovascular nutrition plan like my Pan-Asian Mediterranean (PAM) diet, which features lots of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and healthy fats like olive oil.
Some foods that are especially high in potassium include:
- Baked potatoes (just one has about 800 mg of potassium)
I'm not a huge fan of potassium supplements because the amount of potassium that products may contain is limited to 99 mg per daily dose, or about the amount in two bites of a banana. You're much better off consuming potassium in foods.
Finally, if you're taking a diuretic to treat high blood pressure, pay special attention to this information. Diuretics are notorious for draining the body of minerals, so you need to be especially careful of your potassium level.
More Dr. Sinatra Advice on Diet and Blood Pressure
Which specific foods can help lower blood pressure? Discover the foods that will improve your blood pressure reading the most.
Which specific seasonings can help lower your blood pressure? Find out how to season your meals to perfection and combat high blood pressure at the same time.
Does excess sugar cause high blood pressure? Get the details on how a high-sugar diet can raise your blood pressure reading.