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Salt and Potassium: Importance in Body Growth and Blood Pressure


Most people have too much sodium in their diet. The main source of our sodium is regular table salt. Sat contains 40 percent sodium. On the flipside, most people do not have enough potassium in their diets. Salt and potassium both have an effect on health and specifically on blood pressure. While salt can raise blood pressure, potassium lowers it.

The American Heart Association indicated the number of U.S adults diagnosed with high blood pressure is 74.5 million. If not treated, high blood pressure can lead to heart attack or stoke and be fatal. Potassium and sodium also play in important part in overall body growth and maintenance.

What are Salt Levels and Why are They Important?


Table salt and processed foods contain sodium. The average American consumes between 2,900mg and 4,300mg of sodium per day. The recommended intake is less than 2,300mg of salt per day.

What are the Sources of Salt and Sodium?


Ingredients with the words “salt” or “Na” contain sodium. Salt has 40 percent sodium in it. Other sources with sodium in them are: MSG, baking soda and baking powder.

Avoid or minimize the following for healthy salt levels:

  • Snacks that are salty
  • Frozen or prepared fish, battered or canned
  • Deli meats, hotdogs, sausages
  • Canned items with salt
  • Commercial foods: meat pies, hash, frozen dinners
  • Cheese, buttermilk
  • Seasoning salts, MSG
  • Ketchup, mayo, salad dressings and sauces

About Potassium Levels and Blood Pressure


Potassium is important to body function and lowering blood pressure. It can also help prevent bone loss and reduce risks of developing kidney stones.

On average, most people do not get enough potassium in their diets. Those who have too much potassium in their bodies develop a condition called hyperkalemia. Symptoms of hyperkalemia are tingling sensation in extremeties, muscle fatigue and even temporary paralysis. Abnormal heart rhythm is a serious complication associated with hyperkalemia and can cause cardiac arrest.

Food Sources of Potassium


Some of the best foods to get potassium from are fruits and vegetables. Some potassium-rich foods are also high in calories. If weight control is an issue, potassium supplements may be necessary.

Foods with high levels of potassium are:

  • Bananas
  • Melons like cantaloupe and honeydew
  • Grapefruit
  • Oranges
  • Tomato and prune juice
  • Prunes
  • Molasses
  • Potatoes

How Potassium and Sodium Work Together


The positively charged ions in the fluid of inner cells is made of potassium. The fluid on the outside of cells is mainly composed of sodium. According to The Linus Pauling Institute, potassium levels are about 30 times higher on the inside versus outside of cells. On the same note, sodium levels are ten times lower inside cells than outside.

The difference in concentration between potassium and sodium makes up what is called membrane potential. When at a good level, this membrane potential promotes proper nerve impulse transmission along with muscle contraction and proper heart function.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be used for diagnosis or to guide treatment without the opinion of a health professional. Any reader who is concerned about his or her health should contact a doctor for advice.

References:

American Heart Association. " About High Blood Pressure " (accessed September 28, 2010).

American Heart Association. " Sharing the Salt Habit " (accessed September 28, 2010).

Oregon State University Linus Pauling Institute. " Potassium " (accessed September 28, 2010).

American Heart Association. "Why Should I Limit Sodium? " (accessed September 28, 2010).

American Heart Association. "Potassium" (accessed September 28, 2010).

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