Potassium blood pressure

Population studies suggest that a low intake of potassium may be linked to an increase in blood pressure, and increasing potassium-rich foods in the diet can lead to a reduction in high blood pressure. The typical Western diet is low in potassium relative to sodium, and the ratio of sodium to potassium in the diet may be more important than sodium alone. Studies suggest that the most beneficial effects on blood pressure are seen when sodium intake is reduced and potassium intake is increased.

Potassium blood pressurePotassium depletion causes the body to retain more fluid in response to a large dose of salt. Potassium may help to lower blood pressure in several ways, including enhancing sodium excretion, by directly dilating blood vessels, or lowering cardiovascular reactivity to body chemicals which constrict blood vessels.

Potassium supplements may be useful in the treatment of high blood pressure. Doses involved usually range from 2.5 to 5 g. In people with normal blood pressure, those who are salt-sensitive or who have a family history of hypertension appear to benefit most from potassium supplementation. The greatest blood pressure-lowering effect of potassium supplements occurs in those with severe hypertension. Beneficial effects are more pronounced with long-term supplementation.

A 1997 analysis of studies on the effects of potassium supplementation on blood pressure confirms that low intake of the mineral is linked to high blood pressure and increasing intake is a beneficial part of treatment. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University looked at 33 randomized controlled trials with over 2069 participants in which potassium supplements were used. Positive effects were seen with a decrease in mean systolic pressure of 3.11 mmHg and in diastolic pressure of 1.97 mmHg. The effects were enhanced in those exposed to a high intake of sodium.

In a study published in 1998 in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension, researchers at the Harvard School of Public health tested the effects of potassium, calcium and magnesium supplements on 300 women (average age 39 years) whose dietary intakes of those minerals were low. The participants had blood pressure in the normal range. The women were divided into five groups: the calcium (1200 mg per day), magnesium (336 mg per day) and potassium (1600 mg per day) groups; a group who received all three supplements; and a placebo group. The result showed that potassium supplements lowered blood pressure whereas calcium and magnesium supplements did not. The results also showed that those in the three supplements group had smaller falls in blood pressure than those in the potassium group. The researchers speculate that calcium and magnesium might in some way interfere with the blood pressure-lowering effect of potassium.

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