Consuming the proper amount of potassium is difficult to accomplish. Because of this, many people with high blood pressure wonder if they have low potassium. In addition, a question frequently asked is, why does low potassium increase blood pressure?
Low potassium increases blood pressure because it makes the kidneys less effective at removing excess sodium. This increases fluid in the blood and BP. Low levels of potassium make it more difficult for blood vessels walls to relax. Scientific studies have shown an association between low potassium and higher BP.
This article will dive deeper and explain how the ratio of low potassium to sodium affects blood pressure levels. I’ll discuss how much is recommended and the symptoms of low potassium.
How Low Potassium Affects Blood Pressure
The Low Potassium To Sodium Ratio
The potassium to sodium ratio is a delicate balance needed to help lower blood pressure. The kidneys maintain a healthy balance of salt, water and minerals like calcium, phosphorous, sodium and potassium. Without this healthy balance, the tissues in the body, muscles and nerves may not work efficiently.
The more potassium you consume, the more sodium your body will lose. Consuming too much sodium or not enough potassium throws off the delicate balance the kidneys need to remove the excess water 1.
If too much sodium is consumed, the body will hold onto extra water to help dilute the sodium. This increases the amount of fluid around the cells and the volume of blood. The extra volume of blood makes the heart work harder and increases the pressure on the blood vessels.
Over time, the extra stress can stiffen blood vessels causing another reason for high blood pressure 2.
The Proper Ratio of Potassium to Sodium
Knowing how a low potassium to sodium ratio can increase blood pressure, you may be wondering, what is the proper ratio of potassium to sodium? The proper potassium to sodium ratio is 4:1. The ratio equals 4,700 mg. of potassium to 1,250 mg. of sodium.
The American Heart Association recommends 4,700 milligrams of potassium per day 3. Unlike sodium, most Americans are not consuming enough potassium. The average person is getting about half. In fact, most people are consuming more sodium that potassium.
For sodium, the American Heart Association recommends an upper limit of 2,300 mg. per day. An ideal amount of 1,500 mg. per day for men and women 14 years of age and older. They say for people with high BP, cutting the amount to 1,000 mg a day can lower blood pressure.
Consult with a healthcare professional if you take medication, have any kind of kidney disorder, or not, about the amount of potassium you should be taking every day.
Low Potassium and Blood Vessels
Potassium helps to relax the blood vessel walls which helps lower blood pressure 3. Stiffer more constricted blood vessels makes the heart work harder to pump blood 4.
According to Harvard Health, a number of studies have shown a connection between low potassium levels and increased blood pressure 5.
Many foods in my food list contain potassium. Check out my article here, 35 Foods To Help Reduce Blood Pressure (Proven By Science).
How Hypokalemia Affects Blood Pressure
Hypokalemia is having a low level of potassium in the blood 6. Therefore, how does hypokalemia affect blood pressure?
Having hypokalemia can increase blood pressure. Low levels of potassium can increase fluid retention and make it more difficult for blood vessels to relax which both increases blood pressure.
Hypokalemia is rarely caused by lack of nutrition but it can occur 7. Typically, people can get it for the following reasons:
- The body loses a large amount of fluid from sweating, vomiting, blood loss or diarrhea.
- Certain medications.
- Underlying illnesses.
The following are signs of low potassium:
- Muscle cramps
- Digestion problems
- Muscle aches
- Heart palpitations
- Shortness of breath
Avoid Low Potassium With These Foods
A national survey concluded approximately 98% of Americans wasn’t meeting the daily recommended amount of potassium. The diets are the likely culprit which consists mainly of processed foods 8.
4,700 mg. of potassium a day is not an easy amount to consume. The banana, mostly known for potassium, only contains about 422 mg. That amount doesn’t put the banana into the top 10 list. What are the top 10 foods high in potassium? The top 10 foods high in potassium are:
- Lima Beans
- Swiss Chard
- Acorn Squash
- Sweet Potato
- Wild Caught Salmon
- Dried Apricots
- Coconut Water
An easy morning hack to help increase potassium levels is adding one teaspoon of cream of tartar to a glass of water. If you’re already drinking lemon water, you can add it in. Cream of tartar adds about 495 mg. of potassium and helps you get to the 4,700 amount faster.
Potassium Supplement For High Blood Pressure
It’s definitely difficult to consume 4,700 mg. every day from food. Although food is the best way to consume potassium, many people have asked about a supplement. I always suggest the Blood Pressure Optimizer, which includes 300 mg.
In addition, it contains 11 other ingredients beneficial for blood pressure.
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Always consult with a healthcare professional before taking any supplementation. The above link is an affiliate link which means I may earn a commission for any possible purchases at no extra charge to you.
How long does it take for potassium to lower blood pressure? For potassium supplementation to lower blood pressure takes approximately four weeks. For people with high blood pressure and sensitive to salt, potassium has been shown to lower blood pressure in one week.
What kind of potassium lowers blood pressure? Potassium chloride and potassium citrate lowered blood pressure in studies after one week for people who had high blood pressure. Each participant consumed approximately 3,870 mg per day.
The study noted most of the previous studies had used potassium chloride. The researchers concluded there was no significant difference in blood pressure between potassium chloride and potassium citrate 9.
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- National Center for Biotechnology Information: The Effect of the Sodium to Potassium Ratio on Hypertension Prevalence: A Propensity Score Matching Approach[↩]
- American Heart Association: How High Blood Pressure Can Lead to Kidney Damage or Failure[↩]
- American Heart Association: How Potassium Can Help Control High Blood Pressure[↩][↩]
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Role of potassium in regulating blood flow and blood pressure[↩]
- Harvard Health: Potassium lowers blood pressure[↩]
- Cleveland Clinic: Low Potassium Levels in Your Blood (Hypokalemia) [↩]
- UpToDate: Potassium and hypertension[↩]
- National Institutes of Health: Potassium[↩]
- Hypertension: Effect of Short-Term Supplementation of Potassium Chloride and Potassium Citrate on Blood Pressure in Hypertensives[↩]