High blood pressure? Repeat after me: potassium, potassium, potassium

Now It’s a Party

New York…it’s time to party.

A friend recently sent me this brief e-mail message: “My banana has a sticker that says ‘party with potassium.'”

Good advice. Potassium helps maintain heart health, muscle function, and transmission of nerve impulses. Now that’s an excellent party! And no city loves a party more than New York.

Thing is, New York is going about it the wrong way.

Recently, New York City Health Department officials began a partnership with other cities and health organizations. They call it the National Salt Reduction Initiative. And their goal is to help people control high blood pressure by encouraging restaurants and food producers to voluntarily reduce sodium content of prepared foods by 25 percent over the next five years.

I have to admit, I find many prepared foods too salty. But if the primary goal is to control high blood pressure, there’s a better way to do it.

Dr. Sonia Angell of the NYC Health Dept. told Reuters Health that NSRI simply wants the mix of high and low sodium to be balanced.

And balance is the right idea. But she’s missing a key ingredient: potassium.

Get it started

In recent years, more and more nutritionists have come to recognize the importance of balancing potassium and sodium.

According to the Linus Pauling Institute, more than 20 percent of your body’s resting energy is devoted to maintaining a balance of high potassium inside cells and high sodium outside cells. When the balance is right, cells function properly to do their important work. When the balance is off, lots of things go wrong – such as blood pressure control.

The late Robert C. Atkins, M.D. knew that high blood pressure wasn’t a high sodium problem.

In his “Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution” he cited numerous studies that came to this conclusion: Blood pressure can be lowered simply by increasing potassium intake. No reduction in sodium is necessary unless a patient’s intake is unreasonably high.

One of those studies demonstrated that with just one daily serving of a potassium-rich food, the risk of death by stroke might be cut by as much as half!

You can get the potassium party started with bananas, of course, but several other fruits will bump up potassium levels: apricots, cantaloupe, honeydew melon, and citrus fruits. Potassium-rich vegetables include asparagus, avocados, green beans, lima beans, cauliflower, and winter squash. Red meat, poultry, seafood, and dry beans such as peas and lentils are other good potassium sources.

So here’s my suggestion for the NYC Health Dept. Leave the salt alone and party with potassium.

To Your Good Health,

Jenny Thompson


“New York City Leads Drive to Cut Salt Intake” Basil Katz, Reuters Health, 1/11/10, reutershealth.com

Get urgent health alerts, warnings and insights delivered straight to your inbox