Potassium promotes heart health and reduces the risk of stroke

Health & Fitness Potassium promotes heart health and reduces the risk of stroke

Potassium is an essential nutrient used to maintain fluid and electrolyte balance in the body. Potassium is also the third most abundant mineral in the body and a required mineral for the function of several organs, including the heart, kidneys, brain, and muscular tissues.

Weaver CM(2013) study found that it also plays an important role in keeping the body hydrated and works with sodium to support cellular function with your body’s sodium-potassium pump, among other potassium benefits.

Potassium, science
Heart Health
Potassium is a nucleus nutrient in heart health and plays a central role in regulating the heartbeat to ensure that the heart is working efficiently. A low level is connected to heart rhythm.

For instance, one study by Patel et al.(2017) found that even minute alterations in potassium levels may be associated with a higher risk of having a slow or fast heart rate, which can increase the risk of even more serious heart problems.

Additionally, previous studies also report that both low and high amounts can affect nerve impulses by altering the voltage of nerve cells (Cheng et al. 2013; Mushiyakh et al. 2012).

When Potassium level is too high in the blood, the heart may become dilated and flaccid.

When the heart does not beat properly, it cannot effectively pump blood to the brain, organs, and muscles.

An old study by Koplan and Stevenson(2007) found that heart arrhythmia, or an irregular heartbeat, can be fatal and lead to sudden death.

Reduces Risk of Stroke
Studies have found potassium to support heart health and reduce the risk of stroke. For instance, one observational study by Seth et al.(2014) found that those with high potassium levels have a lower risk of stroke. The risk of ischemic stroke, in particular, is lower in high-potassium consumers.

Another study by Vinceti et al.(2016) found that eating at least 3,500 milligrams of potassium each day was linked to a lower risk of stroke.

A previous study (D'Elia et al. 2011; Aburto et al. 2013) examines 33 studies using 128,644 participants, they found that people who ate the most potassium had a 24% lower risk of stroke than people who ate the least.

An examination of 11 studies involving 247,510 participants found that people who ate the most potassium had a 21% lower risk of stroke. They also found that eating a diet rich in this mineral was linked to a reduced risk of heart disease.

Lowers Blood Pressure
According to a recently updated publication from Harvard Medical School, “the average modern diet delivers too much sodium and too little potassium,” which is highly counterproductive when it comes to discouraging high blood pressure. This is because potassium, in combination with other minerals like calcium and magnesium, prevents fluid from building up in cells. A buildup of fluid within cells is what elevates blood pressure and can result in heart palpitations, narrowed arteries, scarring, and poor circulation.

One study by Houston MC(2011) found that a diet high in potassium, especially potassium from fruits and vegetables, can help lower blood pressure. This is true if the increase in potassium foods is not accompanied by an increase in high-sodium foods.

Besides, Aburto et al.(2013) found that high sodium could increase blood pressure, for those whose blood pressure is already high.

The same study found that when people with high blood pressure increased their potassium intake, their systolic blood pressure decreased by 3.49 mmHg, while their diastolic blood pressure decreased by 1.96 mmHg.

Another study by Rodrigues et al.(2014) found that people who eat more potassium had systolic blood pressure that was 6 mmHg lower and diastolic blood pressure that was 4 mmHg lower, on average.

Recommended Dosage
As of 2019, an expert committee with the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine established updated recommendations for potassium consumption, which can vary based on age and gender.

Here are the most recent recommendations for potassium:

  • 0–6 months: 400 milligrams/day
  • 7–12 months: 860 milligrams/day
  • 1–3 years: 2,000 milligrams/day
  • 4–8 years: 2,300 milligrams/day
  • 9–13 years: 2,500 milligrams/day for males and 2,300 milligrams/day for females
  • 14–18 years: 3,000 milligrams/day for males and 2,300 milligrams/day for females
  • Over 19 years: 3,500 milligrams/day to 4,700 mg for males and 2,600 milligrams/day for females
  • Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding: 2,800–2,900 milligrams/day

Athletes who work out for more than an hour most days may need even more potassium, and intakes vary based on muscle mass, activity levels, etc.

A deficiency in potassium can lead to:

  • Fatigue
  • Constipation
  • Irritability
  • Muscle cramps
  • Weight gain
  • Blood pressure problems
  • Heart palpitations
  • Cellulite buildup
  • Nausea
  • Arthritis
  • Stomach cramps
  • Bloating
  • Abnormal psychological behavior, including depression, confusion, or hallucinations

The main culprits that can cause hypokalemia are endurance exercise without proper hydration, vomiting, diarrhea, and a diet low in fruits and vegetables. Other causes of low potassium levels include alterations in kidney function or hormone levels. Medications like diuretics and laxatives can also make potassium levels too low.

Unless you’re on dialysis, receiving cancer treatment, or have another special condition, overdose of potassium from natural sources is rare — however, it’s possible to consume too much potassium via potassium salts, such as potassium chloride, which can lead to nausea and vomiting.

Those with kidney problems, in particular, are often advised to follow a low-potassium diet to avoid complications. In some cases, your doctor may advise you to reduce potassium consumption as well as other nutrients like phosphorus and sodium, as an impairment in kidney function can cause these nutrients to build up in the body. Older adults and those with diabetes, chronic renal insufficiency, severe heart failure or adrenal insufficiency are also at a higher risk for having high potassium.

Potassium foods

  • Yams, baked: 670 mg
  • White Beans — 1 cup cooked: 1,004 milligrams
  • Lima Beans — 1 cup cooked: 955 milligrams
  • Avocado — 1 whole: 690 milligrams
  • Broccoli — 1 cup cooked: 458 milligrams
  • Sweet Potato — 1 medium: 438 milligrams
  • Bananas — 1 medium: 422 milligrams
  • Salmon — 3 ounces: 416 milligrams
  • Peas — 1 cup cooked: 384 milligrams
  • Sardines — 1 can/3.75 grams: 365 milligrams
  • Grapefruit — 1 whole: 354 milligrams

Prof. Nyarkotey has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations to justify his write-ups. My articles are for educational purposes and do not serve as Medical advice for Treatment. I aim to educate the public about evidence-based scientific Naturopathic Therapies.

The writer is a Professor of Naturopathic Healthcare, a Medical Journalist, and a science writer. President, Nyarkotey University College of Holistic Medicine & Technology (NUCHMT)/African Naturopathic Foundation, Ashaiman, Ghana. E. mail: [email protected]. for more.

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