Chronic high blood pressure can cause a heart attack, stroke, kidney failure and more.
According to the American Heart Association:
- 80 million Americans have high blood pressure
- 1 out of every 3 adults over the age of 20 have high blood pressure
- 20% do not know they have high blood pressure
What can you do? A lot! Poor lifestyle choices, including poor food choices, have been proven to greatly effect your risk of developing high blood pressure.
This article will focus on sodium and potassium and why you need to pay attention to both when it comes to your blood pressure.
Why Sodium Reduction Is Important
Salt brings water into the cells, causing an increase of water in the circulatory system, which causes increased pressure. This increased pressure causes damage to organs, like the kidneys and heart, which have to work harder under pressure. Arteries begin to stiffen, thicken and narrow which can lead to blood clots, strokes and heart attacks. Kidneys lose the ability to filter blood efficiently and toxins build up.
* Research has shown that for most Americans, 75% of their excess sodium comes from processed and restaurant foods and 25% from foods we prep and add ourselves.
RDA for sodium: < 2400 milligrams a day, 1500 mg in people that are sodium sensitive.
Salt to sodium conversion:
1/4 teaspoon salt = 575 mg sodium
1/2 teaspoon salt = 1,150 mg sodium
Why Potassium Intake Is Important
Potassium on the other hand, does the opposite of sodium, it regulates excess fluid by drawing it out of the cells for excretion.
Some people are not getting enough potassium in their diet because they eat a high percentage of processed foods. Potassium is found in unprocessed/unrefined plant based foods. Food processing (refining) reduces potassium in many food products.
A proper ratio of sodium and potassium can reduce the risk of high blood pressure. Rather than take a potassium supplement, it is recommended to get potassium through whole foods naturally high in potassium, for example:
Fruits: bananas, apricots, oranges, cantaloupe, kiwi
Vegetables: winter squash, mushrooms, broccoli, sweet and baked potatoes, leafy greens like spinach, swiss chard, kale
Legumes: white beans, kidney beans and lima beans
Dairy: fat-free/low-fat milk and yogurt
Fish: halibut, tuna, salmon
Nuts: almonds and walnuts
The RDA for potassium is 4700 mg for adults.
* Too much potassium may be harmful in older persons or those with kidney disease so do not take a potassium supplement before talking with your doctor.
High Blood Pressure Risk Factors You Can Control
Genetics and age cannot be controlled but these can:
- Know your number: check your blood pressure regularly
- Eat less saturated fats, replace with healthy fats
- Monitor your sodium and potassium ratio intake. Eat less processed foods!
- Get regular cardiovascular exercise
- Stop Smoking
- Reduce stressors
- Get quality sleep
While the statistics of those with high blood pressure are staggering, we are not helpless and you can take control of your own lifestyle! See a CDL Rolling Strong Wellness Coach to take your blood pressure and help you change some unhealthy habits that may be contributing to undesired blood pressure results.