February is Heart Health Month. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, but the good news is that it is one of the most preventable. Taking even small steps to improving your overall heart health can have huge benefits.
I am going to share a little about the potassium-sodium ratio which is very important for heart health. The potassium-to-sodium balance is extremely important to human health; it affects the functioning of every cell in our bodies!
By improving your potassium-to-sodium balance, you can lower your risk of heart attack, stroke, osteoporosis, asthma, ulcers, stomach cancer, hypertension, and other salt-linked killer diseases. The good news is that increasing the amount of potassium in your diet can counterbalance the effects of high salt intakes.
Most Americans have a potassium-to-sodium ratio of less than one to two, yet the recommended dietary ratio is greater than five to one to maintain optimal health. At a minimum, we should strive for a three to one potassium to sodium ratio.
If you or someone you know, has been diagnosed with any heart condition, salt restrictions will be highly recommended. Americans consume a large amount of highly processed foods. These foods are filled with a lot of salt. The American Heart Association (AHA) states that we only need about 500 milligrams of salt a day; that is only ¼ teaspoon of salt. Many of us may add that much to our food through the salt shaker that is on most tables across America. The AHA says we should strive for 1,500 milligrams per day. The actual average consumption for men is 6,200 milligrams and for women is 4,400 milligrams per day.
Now even if you do reduce your salt intake, this alone will not improve overall health. There must be the simultaneous reduction in sodium and an increase in potassium in order to heal the arteries and reverse any damage that may have occurred. Potassium is one of the top six under consumed nutrients of public concern.
Symptoms of potassium deficiency will produce great fatigue and muscle weakness, mental confusion, irritability, weakness, heart disturbances, and problems in nerve conduction and muscle contraction.
It has been found that populations that consume a primarily plant-based diet, high in fruits and vegetables, only 1% of the people suffer from high blood pressure. This is compared to a population (Americans) that consume a diet high in processed foods and salt, where one in three has high blood pressure.
Most experts agree that it is best to get your potassium from food instead of supplements, and it should be a goal to consume approximately 4,700 mg per day of potassium.
There are a few people, such as those with diabetes or chronic kidney disease, who should not ingest too much potassium. These people should discuss any change in diet with their health-care practitioner.
I encourage you to take control of your health and begin today to reap the superb health benefits of eating more natural, fresh, organic, unprocessed foods with a balanced intake of potassium and sodium. Your heart and body will thank you.
Here is a list of a few potassium-rich foods, and how much potassium they contain.
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Brill, J. (2013). Blood pressure down. New York, NY. Three Rivers Press.