When researching or talking about heart healthy nutrition, three nutrients will come up often: calcium, magnesium, and potassium.
The relationship between potassium and blood pressure is essential for maintaining heart health, since potassium helps control the effects of sodium in the body.
It’s also important to balance the levels of calcium, magnesium, and potassium in the body, since too much of a good thing can always be bad, but also because these three nutrients work in tandem to ensure heart health.
Let’s start from the beginning: sodium plays an important role in blood pressure and heart health, since one of its functions in the body is fluid retention.
The more fluid your body retains, the more pressure is put against the walls of blood vessels, directly affecting blood pressure.
The organ in your body most responsible for regulation fluid retention is the kidneys, which filter the blood, and require a precise give and take between potassium and sodium in order to effectively filter the blood.
The more sodium in your body, the less effective your kidneys will be at the blood filtering process, because the sodium overpowers the potassium and interrupts the process without regulation.
The formula looks something like this:
More sodium=more water retention=higher blood pressure and vice versa.
Potassium is a key factor in regulating blood pressure, since it helps the kidneys excrete excess sodium from the body.
This is why diets, like the DASH diet, include a lot of foods that contain potassium.
The U.S. Department of agriculture recommends 4,700 mg of potassium every day for healthy people.
Potassium is most readily found in foods that are fresh and unprocessed, which have decreased potassium, and increased sodium levels due to processing.
High Potassium and Low Sodium Foods:
-dates, raisins, dried fruit
-apples, oranges, melons, other seeded fruits
-leafy greens (kale, spinach, lettuce)
It IS possible to have too much potassium, which is why you should always try to consume potassium in your diet before supplementing additional potassium.
Potassium is also not a “quick fix” for high sodium in the body.
It’s also important to cut down your sodium intake, which is why eating a fresh, natural diet and cutting out processed foods is important, and balances out the sodium-potassium ratio naturally.
Potassium also plays an important role in muscle function, and therefore plays an essential role in heart function.
It helps trigger muscle contraction and relaxation, therefore helping your heart to pump blood through your body. You guessed it: less potassium=a less healthy heart.