Misperceptions About Salt Reduction
- On a hot and humid day when you sweat, you need more salt in the diet: There is little salt lost through sweat so there is no need for extra salt even on a hot and humid day, although it is important to drink a lot of water.
- Sea salt is not better than manufactured salt simply because it is natural. Regardless of the source of salt, it is the sodium in salt that causes bad health outcomes.
- Salt added during cooking is not the main source of salt intake. In many countries, about 80% of salt in the diet comes from processed foods.
- Food does not need salt to have appealing flavour. It takes some time for a persons taste buds to adjust, but once they get used to less salt, one is more likely to enjoy food and notice a broader range of flavours.
- Food has no flavour without salt. Whilst this may be true at first, taste buds soon become accustomed to less salt and you are more likely to enjoy food with less salt, and more flavour.
- Foods high in salt taste salty. Some foods that are high in salt don’t taste very salty because sometimes they are mixed with other things like sugars that mask the taste. It is important to read food labels to find out sodium levels.
- Only old people need to worry about how much salt they eat: Eating too much salt can raise blood pressure at any age.
- Reducing salt could be bad for my health: Its very difficult to eat too little salt since there are so many everyday foods containing salt.
Tips To Lower Your Salt
To lower the amount of salt in your diet:
- Take the salt shaker off the table.
- Flavor your food with herbs and spices instead of salt. Lemon, lime, and vinegar also add flavor.
- Avoid canned foods and frozen entrees. They are often high in salt. When you make things from scratch you have more control over how much salt goes in them.
- Check all food labels for sodium. You may be surprised at how much you find, and where you find it. Frozen dinners, soups, salad dressings, and prepared foods often have a lot of sodium.
- Choose foods that contain less than 5% for the daily value of sodium.
- Look for low-sodium versions of foods when you can find them.
- Limit foods and condiments that have a lot of salt, such as pickles, olives, cured meats, ketchup, soy sauce, mustard, and barbeque sauce.
- When dining out, ask that your food be made with no added salt or MSG.
How To Lower Blood Pressure Naturally
The term lifestyle changes implies you will need to change your habits to bring your blood pressure down. Broadly speaking, these modifications are natural non-pharmaceutical ways of lowering blood pressure. Six methods have been proven effective in clinical studies, and two others are recommended:
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What Is Potassium Citrate
Potassium is an essential mineral found in various fiber-rich foods like vegetables, fruits, nuts and legumes.
If you follow a largely plant-based diet, theres a good chance youre getting enough potassium. But if your diet includes more processed foods, you may not be consuming an adequate amount.
Unlike other essential nutrients , potassium is not fortified in staple foods. This is due to its rapid impact on blood pressure.
However, when potassium is consumed from natural sources like these, the accompanying fiber slows its absorption. This allows it to safely perform its role in the body.
In supplemental or medication form, potassium is combined with other molecules like carbonate, chloride or hydroxide to form salts.
Potassium linked to citric acid forms potassium citrate.
Potassium citrate structure. Image source.
Dietary Potassium Linked With Lower Blood Pressure
- University of Southern California – Health Sciences
- A new study links increased dietary potassium with lower blood pressure.
Eating potassium-rich foods like sweet potatoes, avocados, spinach, beans, bananas — and even coffee — could be key to lowering blood pressure, according to Alicia McDonough, PhD, professor of cell and neurobiology at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California .
“Decreasing sodium intake is a well-established way to lower blood pressure,” McDonough says, “but evidence suggests that increasing dietary potassium may have an equally important effect on hypertension.”
Hypertension is a global health issue that affects more than one billion people worldwide. The World Health Organization estimates that hypertension is responsible for at least 51 percent of deaths due to stroke and 45 percent of deaths due to heart disease.
McDonough explored the link between blood pressure and dietary sodium, potassium and the sodium-potassium ratio in a review article published in the April 2017 issue of the American Journal of Physiology — Endocrinology and Metabolism. The review looked at population, interventional and molecular mechanism studies that investigated the effects of dietary sodium and potassium on hypertension.
“When dietary potassium is high, kidneys excrete more salt and water, which increases potassium excretion,” McDonough says. “Eating a high potassium diet is like taking a diuretic.”
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Should I Take Supplements
Surprisingly, potassium supplements are not usually the main sources of potassium. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration limits over-the-counter potassium supplements to less than 100 mg per serving, that is, only 2% of the daily recommendation from United States. The amount in over-the-counter supplements is probably restricted due to the risks of overdose. Drinking too much of this mineral can cause excess amounts to accumulate in the blood, which is known as hyperkalemia. In some cases, this can cause an irregular heartbeat, called cardiac arrhythmia, which can be fatal. In addition, studies have found that potassium supplements that provide high doses can damage the lining of the intestine. However, people who are deficient or at risk of deficiency may require a higher dose of potassium supplement. In these cases, doctors can prescribe a higher dose supplement and control it to be alert to any reaction.
Summary: Potassium supplements are not necessary for a healthy adult. However, some people need a doctor to prescribe a higher dose of potassium supplement.
How Does Potassium Help To Lower Your Blood Pressure
Potassium plays a role in how much fluid is stored in your body, and how much is released in your urine. If your body is holding onto water, there will be more fluid in your blood. This puts extra pressure against your blood vessels walls, raising your blood pressure.
Normally, excess fluid is removed from your blood by your kidneys and filtered into the bladder. This process involves a fine balance of sodium and potassium.
Sodium is the part of salt that puts up our blood pressures. If you eat too much salt, there will be more sodium in your blood, and the sodium holds onto water. This upsets the fine balance of sodium and potassium that is needed for water to be pulled out of the blood and into the kidneys.
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Special Precautions & Warnings
Pregnancy or breast-feedingLIKELY SAFEUNSAFE
Disorders of the digestive tract that might alter the speed food and supplements pass through the body : If you have one of these disorders, do not take potassium supplements. Potassium could build up to dangerous levels in your body.
Allergy to aspirin or tartrazine products: Avoid potassium supplements that contain tartrazine.
How Can I Minimize My Potassium Build
One of the best ways to reduce potassium buildup is to make dietary changes. To do that, youll need to learn which foods are high in potassium and which are low. Be sure to do your research and read the nutritional labels on your food.
Keep in mind that it isnt just what you eat that counts, but also how much you eat. Portion control is important to the success of any kidney-friendly diet. Even a food thats considered low in potassium can spike your levels if you eat too much of it.
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How Long Does It Take For Potassium To Lower Blood Pressure
Its important to recognize the effect of potassium is not immediate. Its not like you can eat a banana and thenboomfive minutes later, youre less hypertensive, with lower cardiovascular risk.
And, dietary approaches dont work in all circumstances. If we have someone thats in the emergency room with high blood pressure, were not going to push potassium, explains Dr. Dixon. Its going to be a couple different blood pressure lowering drugs that would be much more effective in that case.
It will take weeks to months to lower blood pressure using potassium. Thats why eating a balanced diet and changing your lifestyle to prioritize heart health over the long haul is important. If you eat properly, youll likely get enough potassium just through your food. The best option is to combine that diet with other actionable steps to maintain healthy blood pressure levels: getting regular exercise, avoiding cigarettes, maintaining a healthy weight, and decreasing sodium intake.
If were all fortunate enough to live into our late 70s or into the eighth and ninth decade of life, at some point your blood pressure may creep up a little bit and meet that threshold of hypertension, Dr. Dixon says. But theres a lot we can do in our younger years to delay that as much as possible and hopefully prevent it.
Why Potassium Lowers Blood Pressure
There are two main explanations why potassium lowers blood pressure.
The first is that potassium relaxes the walls of your blood vessels. . More room for blood to flow means less pressure for a given volume of blood. As an aside, this is likely why meditation also works against hypertension .
The other explanation is that potassium balances the effect of sodium. Sodium raises blood volume , and potassium mitigates this effect by increasing sodium excretion through urine.
But while this is physiologically true, most people are confused on this topic. In their confusion, they callnot just for more potassium but also for sodium restriction. Allow me to try to clear up the confusion.
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How Hypokalemia Affects Blood Pressure
Hypokalemia is having a low level of potassium in the blood 6. Therefore, how does hypokalemia affect blood pressure?
Having hypokalemia can increase blood pressure. Low levels of potassium can increase fluid retention and make it more difficult for blood vessels to relax which both increases blood pressure.
Hypokalemia is rarely caused by lack of nutrition but it can occur 7. Typically, people can get it for the following reasons:
- The body loses a large amount of fluid from sweating, vomiting, blood loss or diarrhea.
- Certain medications.
An easy morning hack to help increase potassium levels is adding one teaspoon of cream of tartar to a glass of water. If youre already drinking lemon water, you can add it in. Cream of tartar adds about 495 mg. of potassium and helps you get to the 4,700 amount faster.
Potassium Lowers Blood Pressure
When it comes to fighting high blood pressure, the average American diet delivers too much sodium and too little potassium. Eating to reverse this imbalance could prevent or control high blood pressure and translate into fewer heart attacks, strokes, and deaths from heart disease.
Normal body levels of potassium are important for muscle function. Potassium relaxes the walls of the blood vessels, lowering blood pressure and protecting against muscle cramping. A number of studies have shown an association between low potassium intake and increased blood pressure and higher risk of stroke. On the flip side, people who already have high blood pressure can significantly lower their systolic blood pressure by increasing their potassium intake when they choose to eat healthy foods.
Most Americans get barely half of the recommended amount of potassium 4,700 milligrams a day. Fruits, vegetables, beans, and some seeds offer good ways to get more of it. Bananas are often held up as the poster child for potassium, but there are better sources.
Since people with high blood pressure may also be trying to lose weight, consider potassium rich foods that are low in calories and carbohydrates. Good examples include broccoli, water chestnuts, spinach, and other leafy greens. Also goodalthough slightly higher in carbs and caloriesare butternut squash and sweet potatoes, and fruits such as cantaloupe, kiwi, and nectarines.
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How Much Potassium Is Safe
Its recommended that healthy men and women over the age of 19 consume at least 3,400 mg and 2,600 mg of potassium per day, respectively.
However, people with kidney disease who are on potassium-restricted diets usually need to keep their potassium intake below 2,000 mg per day.
If you have kidney disease, you should have your potassium checked by your doctor. Theyll do this with a simple blood test. The blood test will determine your monthly level of potassium millimoles per liter of blood .
The three levels are:
- Safe zone: 3.5 to 5.0 mmol/L
- Caution zone: 5.1 to 6.0 mmol/L
- Danger zone: 6.0 mmol/L or higher
Your doctor can work with you to determine how much potassium you should ingest daily, while also maintaining the highest level of nutrition possible. Theyll also monitor your levels to ensure that youre staying within a safe range.
People with high potassium levels do not always have symptoms, so being monitored is important. If you do have symptoms, they may include:
Comparison Of Sodium In Foods
Meats, poultry, fish, and shellfish
Food: Milligrams sodium
Fresh meat, 3 oz. cooked: Less than 90 mg
Shellfish, 3 oz: 100 to 325 mg
Tuna, canned, 3 oz: 300 mg
Lean ham, 3 oz.: 1,025 mg
*Whole milk, 1 cup: 120 mg
Skim or 1% milk, 1 cup: 125 mg
*Buttermilk , 1 cup: 260 mg
*Swiss cheese, 1 oz: 75 mg
*Cheddar cheese, 1 oz : 175 mg
Low-fat cheese, 1 oz.: 150 mg
*Cottage cheese , 1/2 cup: 455 mg
Food: Milligrams sodium
Fresh or frozen vegetables, and no-salt-added canned , 1/2 cup: Less than 70 mg
Vegetables canned or frozen , 1/2 cup: 55-470 mg
Tomato juice, canned, 3/4 cup: 660 mg
Breads, cereals, rice and pasta
Food: Milligrams sodium
Bread, 1 slice: 110-175 mg
English muffin : 130 mg
Ready-to-eat, shredded wheat, 3/4 cup: Less than 5 mg
Cooked cereal , 1/2 cup: Less than 5 mg
Instant cooked cereal, 1 packet: 180 mg
Canned soups, 1 cup: 600-1,300 mg
Food: Milligrams sodium
Canned and frozen main dishes, 8 oz: 500-1,570 mg
*These can also be high in saturated fat, unless low-fat or reduced fat options are purchased.
*High in saturated fat.
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What Are The Side Effects Of Potassium Pills
The most common adverse reactions to oral potassium salts are nausea, vomiting, flatulence, abdominal pain /discomfort and diarrhea. These symptoms are due to irritation of the gastrointestinal tract and are best managed by taking the dose with meals or reducing the amount taken at one time. 4
What Should You Eat To Increase Potassium
The best way to increase your levels is through dietary potassium, meaning from the food youre eating. Try adding more of these foods to your high-potassium diet:
- Sweet potatoes and regular potatoes, plus the skins
- Dairy products
Depending on your lifestyle and health, these may help your blood pressure, but they may not be a cure-all.
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Potassium Citrate And Strokes
Potassiums effect on blood pressure and heart rate may help reduce the risk of stroke.
A 12-year prospective study showed that every 390mg increase in dietary potassium led to a 40% reduction in stroke-associated death .
Also, a meta-analysis on potassium and cardiovascular risk factors reviewed 22 studies. It found that potassium intake reduced blood pressure in those with hypertension and helped lower the risk of stroke .
The FDA is currently collecting data on potassium citrate use and stroke risk.
So far, of the 1,749 people who experienced side effects while on potassium citrate, 15 or 0.86% have had a stroke, especially in older males .
Potassium Your Invisible Friend
I recognise that I spent a lot of time telling people what does not cause heart disease, and what does not protect against heart disease. My sister told me well, what advice would you give people, then? I usually shrug my shoulders and reply there is no shortage of advice around, I dont think I need to add to the daily bombardment.
However, I shall break the habit of a lifetime and, with slight trepidation, announce that I strongly believe that Potassium is good for you. If you consume more of it you will, most likely, live both longer and in better health.
How much should you consume? A couple of extra grams a day should do the trick. Having said this, I do recognise that most people will not have the faintest idea how much potassium they consume and, frankly, neither do I. But you are probably not consuming enough, and your kidneys will easily get rid of any excess.
For those who are not keen on bananas, spinach and broccoli, and other foods high in potassium, you could take it as a tablet. Potassium bicarbonate or potassium citrate appears to be the best formulation. Depending on which brand you decide to buy, it should cost about £15 20/year.
an unexpectedly powerful protective relation of dietary potassium to all-cause mortality, the study concluded.
The paper showed that:
- Men consuming an average of 5400 mg of potassium per day vs 1840 mg were 55% less likely to die during 7.6 year study
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Extra Virgin Olive Oil Is Linked With Improved Blood Pressure
Olive oil is probably the healthiest oil in the world.
Its a staple of Mediterranean-style diets, and is rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and phenolic antioxidants.
Extra-Virgin olive oil has the highest levels of beneficial components because it is the least processed form of olive oil.
The cardiovascular benefits of olive oil are certainly no secret, with one major study finding it reduced heart attacks, strokes and death by a whopping 30% .
Its no surprise then that olive oil is a fantastic food to lower blood pressure.
In a study of 23 participants with high blood pressure, extra virgin olive oil reduced blood pressure by 48% compared with sunflower oil. Olive oil intake even cut the need for blood pressure medications in 8 of those participants .
Add extra-virgin olive oil to salads, and safely cook with it on almost all occasions.
Summary: Frequent consumption of olive oil has been heavily linked with cardiovascular benefits for many years. Small studies have shown extra virgin olive oil can significantly reduce blood pressure compared to sunflower oil.