High blood pressure is a silent condition that sets the stage for grave cardiac events like stroke and heart attack. It is estimated to affect over a quarter of adults in the UK, putting millions in harm’s way. Fortunately, the consumption of certain foods may substantially lower these risks, a new study has confirmed.
The new findings, published in the journal of the European Society of Cardiology, have suggested that women who eat bananas, avocados and salmon can reduce the negative effects of salt in the diet.
Although bananas are touted as one of the top sources of potassium, other good sources include apricots, prunes, orange juices, squash and potatoes.
Study author Professor Liffert Vogt of Amsterdam University Medical Centres, in the Netherlands, said: “Health advice has focused on limiting salt intake but this is difficult to achieve when our diets include processed foods.
“Potassium helps the body excrete more sodium in the urine. In our study, dietary potassium was linked with the greatest health gains in women.”
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For the study of more than 24,000 patients, aged around 59 years old, volunteers were asked to fill out questionnaires assessing lifestyle habits.
Blood pressure was thereafter measured and blood samples were collected to help estimate dietary intake of sodium and potassium.
Participants were regrouped into three tertiles based on their sodium and potassium intake.
The results of the analysis revealed that as the intake of potassium increased, blood pressure dropped.
“When the association was analysed according to sodium intake, the relationship between potassium and blood pressure was only observed in women with big sodium intake,” explains Eurekalert.
In fact, every one gram increase in daily potassium was associated with a 2.4 mmHg lower systolic blood pressure.
In men, however, researchers found no evidence of a link between potassium intake and blood pressure.
Previous research has shown that potassium lowers blood pressure by helping ease tension in the blood vessel walls.
Professor Vogt added: “The results suggest that potassium helps preserve heart health, but that women benefit more than men.
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“The relationship between potassium and cardiovascular events was the same regardless of salt intake, suggesting that potassium has other ways of protecting the heart on top of increasing sodium excretion.”
The study author concluded: “Our findings indicate that a heart-healthy diet goes beyond limiting salt to boosting potassium content.
“Food companies can help by swapping standard sodium-based salt for a potassium salt alternative in processed foods.
“On top of that, we should all priorities fresh, unprocessed foods since they are both rich in potassium and low in salt.”
The findings chime with previous studies which show that a higher intake of dietary potassium is linked with a 38 percent lower likelihood of hypertension.
Alongside blood pressure control, potassium is also necessary for the normal functioning of several other cells too.
It regulates the heartbeat, ensures the proper function of the muscles and nerves, and helps synthesise protein and metabolise carbohydrates.
To top up potassium levels, experts recommend consuming more foods like fruits and vegetables. Supplements should never be taken without a prescription from a doctor.