Potassium, an essential nutrient for maintaining fluid volume in the body and important for regulating the balance between acids and electrolytes, plays a crucial role in maintaining heart health.
Direct proportion between body potassium concentration and cardiovascular health has been highlighted by a study conducted by the World Health Organization in 2013, which focused on the effects of the mineral on the human body.
The role of potassium in maintaining health
The role of potassium in the body is closely related to the relationship that this mineral has with sodium. While excess sodium has been extensively discussed in the scientific inquiries about the consequences of the abuse of salt, potassium deficiencies still remain insufficiently discussed.
Potassium directly influences the ability of muscles to contract, as it ensures the transmission of muscle signals to the nerve endings. Also, potassium has a significant impact on heart health because it prevents strokes, regulates blood pressure and heart activity, while also being a factor in preventing kidney disease.
Other important roles of potassium for health include:
– prevention and control of anxiety and stress (additional intake of potassium is recommended for people suffering from emotional or mental disorders, such as stress or anxiety);
– increased muscle tone (potassium ensures optimal growth of muscle tissue and the efficient use of energy released by metabolic processes – so the muscles, including cardiac ones, are threatened by paralysis, in case of a deficiency in potassium);
– regulating metabolism – potassium assists the metabolism of several nutrients, such as fats, proteins or carbohydrates;
– balancing the hydration level of the body – potassium ensures the right quantity of water for each specialised cell in the body to function normally;
– regulation of the functionality of electrolytes in the body;
– balancing the nervous system;
– prevention of stroke (people who suffer a stroke are almost always deficient in potassium);
– treating muscle disorders need a certain concentration of potassium ions in the body for normal contractions and relaxation of muscles;
– improving muscle cramps, when they occur as a result of acute deficiency of potassium (also called hypokalemia);
– improvement in memory and learning ability – potassium plays a key role in maintaining electrical conductivity in the brain (this is why certain serious mental illnesses such as epilepsy, are associated with low levels of potassium in the body);
– cancelling the effect of sodium on the cardiovascular system, potassium regulates blood pressure and it is a vital element for heart health (so it is considered an important factor in the prevention of heart diseases and high blood pressure);
– prevention of kidney disease – potassium assists the kidneys in the evacuation of toxins released from the excretory system;
Besides the fact that acts as an electrolyte (the substance responsible for a series of electrical particles needed by the body to function normally), this mineral is essential for maintaining a good condition of the heart, brain, kidney, muscle tissues and other organs body.
Deficiencies in potassium generally produce chronic fatigue and muscle weakness. Other symptoms associated with deficiencies in potassium include
– delayed or inactive reflexes;
– arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat);
– severe headache;
– intestinal pain;
– increased levels of glucose in the blood;
Impact of potassium on heart health
A team of researchers from the World Health Organization monitored the effects of insufficient potassium intake on the body, through an experiment performed on a sample of 128,000 participants without health problems.
After 33 specialized tests, scientists found out that an increased intake of potassium in the diet significantly reduces blood pressure in adults, without affecting blood cholesterol levels, hormone levels and kidney function.
The initiators of the study found a 24% lower risk of developing a heart attack in subjects with optimal levels of potassium in the body. After interpreting the data, the researchers were able to give a series of recommendations and guidance about ideal intake of potassium from the daily diet.
Therefore, adults should ensure their potassium intake of 3.5 grams, to benefit from the positive effects of the mineral to the body and to reduce the risks associated with cardiovascular disease.
Except for patients undergoing treatment like dialysis or have been diagnosed with a special affection which does not allow supplementation of potassium, the overdose with this mineral, from food, is impossible.
Food sources of potassium
Potassium taken from natural food sources is considered to be healthy and safe for the body. The main foods rich in potassium are:
– white beans (561 mg / 100 g)
– green leafy vegetables – spinach, kale, cabbage etc. (558 mg / 100 g)
– baked potatoes (535 mg / 100 g)
– dried fruit – apricots, peaches, plums and raisins (1162 mg / 100 g)
– baked pumpkin (437 mg / 100 g)
– yogurt (255 mg / 100 g)
– fish – salmon, halibut, tuna, anchovy, mackerel, herring, etc. (628 mg / 100 g)
– avocados (485 mg / 100 g)
– mushrooms (396 mg / 100 g)
– bananas (358 mg / 100 g)
– herbs – parsley, cilantro, basil, dill (4740 mg / 100 g)
– dried tomatoes (3427 mg / 100 g)
– cocoa powder and dark chocolate (2509 mg / 100 g)
– whey powder (2289 mg / 100 g)
– dried seaweed – Spirulina (1363mg / 100g)
– oleaginous fruits – pistachios, nuts etc. (1000 mg / 100 g)