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Dr Russ Blog - High Blood Pressure and Potassium
High Blood Pressure and Potassium
Created on 8/5/2008

A diet high in fruits and vegetables has long been thought to help prevent heart disease, and recent research suggests one new reason why that might be true. The authors of a study in The Journal of Clinical Hypertension suggest that by increasing our intake of foods high in potassium we might be able to treat, perhaps even prevent, hypertension (high blood pressure). It turns out that many fruits and vegetables are high in potassium. As you know, inadequately treated high blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke, so understanding how diet can be used to lessen risk of hypertension is very important.

We're fortunate in that fruits and vegetables high in potassium include many of our favorite foods: bananas, orange juice, papaya, cucumber, plantains, dates, lentils, sweet or baked potatoes, watermelon, tomato products, artichokes, many types of beans (baked, kidney, white, lima, pinto), honeydew, cabbage, carrots, Brussels sprouts, collards, even canned pears and fruit cocktail.

Typically, recommendations to increase intake of potassium are paired with recommendations to lower salt (sodium) intake. High sodium diets are a risk factor for the development of high blood pressure. Many canned products are high in sodium, so be sure to read labels so you can choose low sodium varieties of your favorite foods. And try not to add salt to your meals.

It's important to remember that these guidelines speak specifically to eating foods high in potassium - - they do not address the use of potassium suppements, especially those available over the counter. While you should discuss all vitamin and supplement use with your doctor, it is especially important to do so in certain instances, and this is one of them. You must ALWAYS discuss the use of potassium supplements with your doctor before using them. In general, I am not in favor of people using over the counter potassium supplements. Getting too much potassium can be very dangerous, especially for people with kidney disease, or those who are taking medications like digoxin or an ACE inhibitor. It's much easier to get too much potassium from supplements than from the diet, as the supplements are typically very concentrated. Even if you are simply making changes to your diet to get more potassium, however, it makes sense to speak with your doctor first.

Some people take potassium as prescribed by their doctors, especially if they are taking certain "water pills" (diuretics). This circumstance is very different from using an over the counter potassium supplement.

So we've got a new reason to enjoy plenty of fruits and vegetables each day (besides the fact that they're delicious!). Enjoy the full range of colorful produce available at your Harris Teeter Farmers Market and you just might help keep high blood pressure at bay.

Be well.
Dr. Russ

** Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment. **

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