While many understand that Potassium is a mineral that plays a vital role in the body's overall health (as discussed here https://greatnaturally.com/blogs/blogs/potassium-the-missing-link-in-todays-diet), too few understand just how critical it is for the heart and cardiovascular system. Several studies have demonstrated that when Potassium is consumed in adequate amounts, it can be beneficial for heart health by providing support for those with heart disease, improving blood pressure balance, and assisting the regulation of normal heart rhythm. While it is important to note that it is not a cure or a silver bullet for preventing these disease states, in this article we’ll look at some of the ways Potassium has been shown to be essential for maintaining optimal heart health as well as healthy cardiovascular system performance.
The first reason why Potassium is beneficial for heart health is its role in regulating normal blood pressure levels. Potassium is a natural vasodilator, meaning it helps to widen blood vessels, reducing the resistance to blood flow, and ultimately lowering blood pressure. This works through the “push-pull” relationship it has with sodium in balancing fluids in the blood. The balance between the intakes of these two minerals has one of the most profound roles on regular cardiovascular function. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that increased Potassium intake, in light of diets that were not getting enough, significantly reduced both systolic and diastolic blood pressure in hypertensive adults. The authors of the study concluded that "Potassium supplementation may be a useful therapeutic adjunct to reduce blood pressure in hypertensive adults." 1
In addition to supporting normal blood pressure levels, consuming adequate Potassium intake also helps stabilize heart rhythm. Irregular heartbeats occur when the heart's electrical impulses do not follow the normal rhythm, causing the heart to beat too fast or too slow. Potassium, as a chief electrolyte that buffers sodium and calcium functioning, regulates the electrical impulses that control the heart's rhythm, stabilizing irregularities in our heartbeat. A study published in the journal Circulation found that if those with a low potassium diet increased dietary Potassium intake they can significantly impact the development of irregular heartbeat, particularly in patients with heart failure.2 It is important to note that this benefit does not apply to those who already consume enough, however it is suggested that up to 99% of American do not meet there Potassium needs every day.
Another significant benefit of increasing Potassium intake to adequate levels for heart health is its role in reducing the overall risk of developing heart disease. A study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that higher dietary potassium intake was associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality. The study's authors suggest that Potassium may have a protective effect on the cardiovascular system due to its ability to regulate blood pressure and prevent irregular heart rhythm.3
With all this being said, it is important to remember that Potassium is an essential nutrient that is required for many functions in the body, but consuming enough is just one of the many dietary and lifestyle factors that affect heart health including:
- Overall potassium intake compared to sodium intake (overall dietary intake should be at least 2:1)
- Overall electrolyte intake including Magnesium and Calcium consumption (overall dietary intake should no less than 1:3)
- How much overly processed foods we consume (including refined flours, fried foods or other sources of refined grain and seed oils)
- Active Omega-3 EFA oil consumption (recommended amounts begin at 500mg+ of EPA/DHA per day)
- Overall sugar consumption (especially outside whole-food sources)
- How much physical activity you get
- Whether or not you are a smoker
- How much alcohol you consume in any form
To add even more context, Sodium is another mineral that plays a crucial role in the body's overall health but excessive intake of sodium can increase blood pressure and put added stress on the cardiovascular system, especially when too little Potassium is consumed. A diet that is high in potassium and low in Sodium is recommended to maintain a healthy balance between these two minerals. The American Heart Association recommends a daily intake of 4,700 milligrams of Potassium and no more than 2,300 milligrams of Sodium for most adults (2:1 ratio), while the established Adequate Intake level for Potassium is set at 5,100mg/day.4
In conclusion, consuming the recommended amount of Potassium every day plays a crucial role in maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system by supporting normal blood pressure levels, stabilizing heartbeat levels, and reducing the risk of heart disease in conjunction with other dietary and lifestyle habits. Increasing dietary potassium intake can be achieved by consuming more potassium-rich foods such as bananas, avocados, sweet potatoes, spinach, and many more whole foods along with quality supplementation. It is essential to maintain a balance between Potassium, Sodium, Magnesium, and Calcium intake to ensure optimal cardiovascular health. Considering the average American consumes less than 2,500mg, only HALF, of what is required every day, consuming more is one of the easiest and most influential ways we can gain control of our heart and cardiovascular health.5 If you have any concerns about your Potassium intake consider how much Potassium you consume and find ways to increase it while looking to balance the other electrolyte minerals as well to optimize wellness.
This is the second blog post titled Potassium: The Missing Link...
Stay Tuned for more in the series!