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Increasing potassium intake may lower blood pressure and reduce risk of cardiovascular disease

Posted Sep 16 2008 7:00am

My blog last Friday focused on a recent meta-analysis which demonstrates that garlic has real potential to reduce blood pressure. What is more, in individuals with high blood pressure (hypertension), the levels of reduction achieved with garlic supplementation seemed meaningful, and are likely to translate into real reduction in the risk of problems associated with raised blood pressure, namely cardiovascular diseases such as heart disease and stroke.

However, there are of course other natural strategies that may reap dividends for individuals wishing to bring down their blood pressure. Sodium (salt) restriction may have benefits here, and is perhaps the most widely touted dietary strategy for blood pressure reduction of all. However, other nutritional approaches exist, and these were recently highlighted in a review on the subject published in the Journal of Clinical Hypertension [1]. This review concerns the role of specific nutrients in blood pressure regulation.

One of the nutrients singled out for special attention in this review is potassium. Potassium is believed to have some potential to mitigate against the blood-pressure elevating effects of sodium. The authors of the review believe that if Americans were to increase their potassium intake, there would be corresponding fall in the number of people diagnosed with high blood pressure.

Some support for the idea of increasing potassium intake has come from a recent study which assessed the relationship between levels of this nutrient in the diet and, not blood pressure, but risk of cardiovascular disease [2]. This study followed nearly 60,000 Japanese men and women over an average of more than 12 years. At the start of the study, participants had their diet analysed. Over time, the development of chronic diseases including heart disease and stroke was charted.

This study found that compared to those with the lowest potassium intakes, those with the highest intakes had:

A 35 per cent reduced risk of developing coronary heart disease

A 27 per cent reduced risk of developing cardiovascular disease

These findings lend support to the recent call from the Journal of Clinical Hypertension study authors for individuals to increase their potassium intake. Good sources of potassium include fruits, vegetables and legumes.

References:

1. Houston MC, et al. Potassium, Magnesium, and Calcium: Their Role in Both the Cause and Treatment of Hypertension J Clin Hypertens 2008;10(7 suppl 2):2–11.

2. Umesawa M, et al. Relations between dietary sodium and potassium intakes and mortality from cardiovascular disease: the Japan Collaborative Cohort Study for Evaluation of Cancer Risks. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2008;88(1):195-202

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