Recent studies have elevated the role of potassium in heart health – too much salt and too little potassium in your diet may boost your risk of heart disease.
Potassium is a simple mineral with a crucial job – helping your heart beat. A hundred thousand times a day, potassium helps trigger your heart’s squeeze of blood through your body. If you have high blood pressure, heart failure, or heart rhythm problems, getting enough potassium is especially important.
Some fruits, vegetables and nuts are higher in potassium than others. Read on to discover good sources of potassium for a healthy heart.
Choosing potassium-rich foods is easy because there are so many. Here are a few.
- Potato, 1 medium has 926 mg potassium
- Sweet potato, 1 medium has 540 mg potassium
- Spinach, ½ cup cooked has 290 mg potassium
- Zucchini, ½ cup cooked has 280 mg potassium
- Tomato, ½ cup fresh has 210 mg potassium
Legumes and nuts
- Soybeans, ½ cup cooked has 440 mg potassium
- Lentils, ½ cup cooked has 370 mg potassium
- Kidney beans, ½ cup cooked has 360 mg potassium
- Split peas, ½ cup cooked has 360 mg potassium
- Almonds, one third of a cup has 310 mg potassium
- Bananas, 1 medium has 420 mg potassium
- Apricots, ¼ cup has 380 mg potassium
- Oranges, 1 medium has 237 mg potassium
- Cantaloupe, ½ cup has 214 mg potassium
Blood Pressure Control
Elevated blood pressure is a risk factor for heart attack, stroke, and heart failure — the leading causes of death in the world. Because of this, controlling blood pressure has become a significant task. Normal blood pressure should be at or below 120/80 mmHg. High blood pressure is over 140/90 mmHg. Work toward your blood pressure goal by including plenty of potassium-rich foods like potatoes, soybeans, bananas and oranges in your diet.
Kidneys Work Better
Potassium is a chemical which helps to lower blood pressure by balancing out the negative effects of salt. Your kidneys help to control your blood pressure by controlling the amount of fluid stored in your body. More the fluid, higher is your blood pressure. Your kidneys do this by filtering your blood and sucking out any extra fluid, which it then stores in your bladder as urine. This process uses a delicate balance of sodium and potassium to pull the water across a wall of cells from the bloodstream into a collecting channel that leads to the bladder.
Eating salt raises the amount of sodium in your bloodstream and wrecks the delicate balance, reducing the ability of your kidneys to remove the water. By eating more fruit and vegetables, you will increase your potassium levels and help to restore the delicate balance. This will help your kidneys to work more efficiently – and help to lower your blood pressure to a healthy level.
In healthy amounts, potassium is a heart-friendly mineral. Potassium doesn’t treat or prevent heart disease, but studies have shown that getting enough potassium benefits the heart in several important ways.
It is interesting to know that many diets proven to lower cholesterol are also high in potassium. If you have abnormal cholesterol levels, you are at higher than average risk for heart disease.
Taking potassium is not known to reduce the risk of heart attacks. But by making sure you’re taking in enough potassium, you’ll probably end up eating more fruits and vegetables. A healthy diet, high in fruits and veggies and low in saturated fat and cholesterol, can help cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease.
Abnormal Heart Rhythms
For people with abnormal heart rhythms, potassium may be even more important. Potassium is hiding inside every heartbeat. Each heart muscle needs just the right potassium balance in order to contract in a coordinated fashion. People who have had abnormal heart rhythms – arrhythmias or dysrhythmias – are at risk for an uncoordinated heart rhythm.
People with a history of arrhythmias should see a doctor on a regular basis. A periodic potassium check might be part of your routine doctor’s visits.
For many people with heart failure (also called congestive heart failure), getting enough potassium is especially important. Some diuretics for heart failure can cause you to lose potassium in the urine. Potassium supplements or a potassium-rich diet can put it back. Ask your doctor before starting a potassium supplement on your own, because it may not be necessary.
How Much Potassium Is Necessary?
When it comes to potassium, it is possible to have too much of a good thing. Healthy people should not have any problems from eating a high-potassium diet or taking potassium supplements as directed. But people with kidney problems or certain other conditions such as acute renal failure or chronic kidney disease need to be cautious about potassium intake.
The easiest thing to do is to increase the amount of high-potassium fruits and vegetables in your diet. If you really feel like counting, the USDA recommends 4,700 milligrams of potassium per day. You can find the potassium content in foods on their package labels.