Low Sodium and High Potassium Intake for Hypertension

Dietary modification is highly essential and very important in management of hypertension. Effectiveness of pharmacological agents (medications) is not optimal without dietary modification and lifestyle changes. Effective dietary modification can reduce number of drugs required or dosages of drugs required for control of hypertension. Dietary modification in management of hypertension include low sodium intake, high potassium, low cholesterol and saturated fats, high quantity of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, moderate alcohol intake, soluble fiber etc.ID-10080321

Low sodium for management of hypertension:

Several studies (animal studies, epidemiological studies and clinical trial) and meta-analysis suggest that when there is increased dietary intake of common salt (sodium chloride) is associated with increase in blood pressure (BP). Hence, for simple reason, reduced dietary sodium is associated with lowering of blood pressure. There are several rigorously controlled studies about the amount of salt intake and its effect on BP. In the DASH-sodium trial three different levels of dietary sodium in two separate diets (DASH diet and controlled diet which was typical of American diet) was tested. And it was observed that lowering of blood pressure was highest among the group taking lowest dietary sodium. It was also observed in the study that reduced salt intake can reduce risk of hypertension and hypertension related risk factors by 20%, even without change of any other factors such as body weight and increases the effectiveness of antihypertensive medications in management of hypertension.

How much common salt should be taken daily in diet?

Different associations and different countries recommend different quantity of sodium/salt intake. ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research) recommends intake of 4 (four) grams of salt per day. The range is 4-6 grams of dietary common salt intake a day. This is because of presence of high amount of salt in current diet, as achieving target of 4 grams a day is not easy to achieve. If diet contains 4 grams of common salt it can provide other nutrients too in adequate quantity, although lowering of salt intake further is associated with further lowering of blood pressure.

Increased potassium intake and hypertension:

High potassium intake is associated with lowering of BP. Several studies and meta-analysis have shown that there is inverse relationship between potassium intake and BP. However the effect of high potassium in lowering BP is more pronounced when it is combined with reduction in sodium intake. It was also seen in the study that, the reduction in BP for increased intake of potassium is more pronounced among whites than blacks. It is possible to increase intake of potassium by changing the dietary habit by consuming more fruits and vegetables rich in potassium. And these potassium rich foods are rich in other nutrients too, which gives additional benefits. Hence, potassium supplementation is not recommended. However, before increasing dietary potassium intake or taking supplements, it is important to know your renal function is normal and you are not taking any medication that help in retaining potassium such as potassium sparing diuretics, ACE inhibitors, ARBs, NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) or which are commonly known as painkillers. Because, this can lead to hyperkalemia or excess potassium in blood, which is a dangerous medical condition.

Image courtesy of [Toa55] at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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