I’ve already talked about how potassium is important for controlling blood pressure. This makes many people think that taking potassium supplements could help with hypertension. But there are some important things to remember.
Potassium is needed for all cells to work well and for the heart to be healthy. It is also an electrolyte. Electrolytes are things like calcium, magnesium, sodium, and chloride that carry electricity through the body. Since sodium and chloride are both parts of salt, there is a close link between electrolytes and blood pressure.
If you eat a healthy diet, your body probably gets all the potassium it needs. In reality, the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet works so well because it stresses eating potassium-rich foods like fruits and vegetables. There are also a lot of potassium-rich foods in vegetarian and vegan diets, which makes them good ways to eat. Potassium is also in meat and some types of fish, like salmon, flounder, and cod. For people 19 and older, the recommended daily amount of potassium is about 4,700 milligrams.
But getting enough potassium isn’t enough for your body to work well. Your potassium levels also depend on how much magnesium and salt you eat. Many Americans eat too much salt, which means they need more potassium to make up for it. Because of this, you should watch how much salt you eat, especially if you have high blood pressure.
Other things that can cause you to need more potassium are diarrhea, excessive sweating, malnutrition, the use of loop diuretics, vomiting, and diseases like Crohn’s disease that make it hard to absorb nutrients. Some medicines, like NSAIDs and ACE inhibitors, can also change the amount of potassium in your body.
If you have high blood pressure and think you need more potassium, you may wonder if the best thing to do is to take a supplement. Some studies have found evidence that potassium supplements may help lower blood pressure, but others have not. Taking a potassium supplement for no reason can cause hyperkalemia, which is when your blood has too much potassium. Potassium is best found in healthy foods, and before taking potassium supplements, you should always talk to your doctor.