If you’ve been diagnosed with high blood pressure, your doctor might have advised you to include more potassium in your diet. Not sure where to start? Find out about the link between potassium and blood pressure and what you can do to make sure you’re getting the right amount.
What Is Potassium?
Potassium is a mineral that helps keep your body on track. It helps your heart beat, keeps your muscles, nerves, and kidneys working the right way, and balances your fluids. Potassium can help lower blood pressure by:
- Taking some of the sodium out of your body. Sodium is a chemical found in table salt and many processed foods that can raise blood pressure.
- Relaxing the walls of your blood vessels.
What Foods Are High in Potassium?
The Food and Nutrition Center of the Institute of Medicine recommends that adults get 4,700 milligrams of potassium each day. If this sounds like a lot, don’t worry — potassium is found in many foods, including:
- Cantaloupe and honeydew melon
- Spinach and other leafy greens
- Sweet potatoes
- White potatoes, with skin
- Fat-free or low-fat milk
Keep in mind that for some people, too much potassium can be harmful rather than helpful. This includes people who are older or have certain kinds of kidney problems. People on dialysis should not eat too many high-potassium foods.
Where Should I Start?
Some medicines for high blood pressure can raise or lower your potassium levels, so you should not make changes to your diet without talking to your doctor first. It’s also a good idea to speak with a registered dietitian, an expert in food and nutrition, who can help you choose healthy foods with a safe amount of potassium based on your medical history and needs.
To learn more, visit the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute or call 1-855-UPMC-HVI (876-2484).