Terry Perry has been a Registered Dietitian for over 25 years. Her expertise ranges from disease prevention to nutrition education. Being the former Chief Clinical Dietitian of Holy Family Hospital in Spokane WA, she has valuable experience that she has graciously agreed to share with us in this issue of The High Road to Health. During this interview Terry and I discussed the extraordinarily important and often overlooked mineral/electrolyte known as potassium.
As a Registered Dietitian, what experience have you had working with potassium?
I would say that most of my work involving potassium has been with patients that have a potassium deficiency due to medications they are taking to control high blood pressure.
What kind of foods are high in potassium?
The best sources of potassium are foods that are closest to their original state. Whole, unprocessed foods such as fruit and vegetables, low fat dairy products, whole grains, fish and meat are great sources of potassium. I’ve included this chart with some examples of foods that are high in potassium.
What is the role of potassium?
Potassium is both an electrolyte and a mineral. As a mineral potassium works with sodium,calcium and magnesium to regulate the body’s water balance, maintain normal heart rhythm and is responsible for sending nerve impulses to contract muscles. Potassium works with calcium to relax muscles as well as assists in regulating the acid base balance in the body. It also helps release energy from protein and carbohydrates. Potassium is necessary for the building of muscle and for normal body growth.
What correlation does potassium have with heart health?
Potassium can affect heart health in several different ways. As an electrolyte in the body, potassium helps to regulate heartbeat. Low potassium levels can result in an irregular heartbeat. Another heart condition that can affect potassium levels in the body is congestive heart failure. When your body is retaining fluid as often happens with heart failure, the doctor may recommend limiting how much liquid you get. Many people are prescribed diuretics or water pills such as Lasix to help them get rid of extra water and sodium and reduce the heart’s work load. Along with the release of water and sodium goes potassium, often resulting in a potassium deficiency Research has shown that potassium may help lower blood pressure. The DASH study (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) found that a diet that included 9-10 servings of fresh fruits and vegetables, low fat dairy products, whole grains, low fat fish and poultry, beans, seeds and nuts significantly reduced blood pressure in allsubjects. Researchers believe that it is the combination of foods high in potassium,magnesium, and calcium that was effective in lowering blood pressure.
What are some symptoms of potassium deficiency?
Low potassium can have very serious side effects. The greatest losses result from long term diarrhea, vomiting, or laxative use. Potassium loss also comes from taking certain diuretics to treat high blood pressure. Some of the symptoms of low potassium levels in the blood, aka, hypokalemia, include muscle weakness, muscle aches, and muscle cramps. You may even feel sick to your stomach, anxious, drowsy or weak. Because potassium helps regulate heart rate, low levels may cause irregular heart beat.
What kinds of drugs interfere with potassium?
Some diuretics may decrease your body’s supply of potassium. Drugs used to treat heart disease or congestive heart failure such as beta-blockers, ace inhibitors and calcium channel blockers can affect potassium levels. Prednisone and Aminoglycosides like Tobramycin can cause low potassium levels.
What population is most at risk for a deficiency?
The most at risk are those with high blood pressure who are being treated with non potassium sparing diuretics. Also at risk of developing deficiency are people with gastrointestinal diseases that cause frequent vomiting and diarrhea, patients withelevated corticosteroid levels, either from medications like prednisone, or fromCushing’s syndrome, and those with elevated levels of aldosterone.
Is there a set amount of potassium that should be ingested daily?
Because of potassium’s health benefits, the recommended adequate intake of potassium for teens and adults is 4700 milligrams daily. (The exception are people with kidney disease or severe congestive heart failure, who may have trouble getting rid of the mineral and must limit their intake).
What is the most desirable ratio of sodium to potassium?
Potassium is about twice as plentiful as sodium in the body. By far the larger portion is found inside the cell, since potassium (K+) is the major cation (positively chargedion) of the intracellular fluid. However the relatively small amount in extracellular fluid has a significant effect on muscle activity, especially heart muscle.
What effect does canning fruits and vegetables have on their potassium content?
Whether a food is cooked or put in a can it loses potassium. Manufacturers add sodium to canned foods for flavor or as a preservative, when we eat these foods; we deplete our potassium stores to handle the excess sodium. Many researchers feel that the resulting sodium-potassium imbalance is one reason why the U.S, incidence of hypertension (high blood pressure) keeps climbing.
What are your thoughts on Mt. Capra’s Capra Mineral Whey?
Capra Mineral Whey (CMW) is a minimally processed, whole food source of minerals and vitamins. It contains a unique blend of potassium, phosphorous, sodium and magnesium. CMW uses a highly concentrated alkaline formulation that does not upset the normal acid base balance of the body. CMW provides nearly 1000mg of potassium per serving! CMW comes from goats that are free of pesticides, herbicides, and growth hormones. It is an ideal formula for people who cannot meet their minerals needs in their daily diet.
Thanks so much for the education! Any final tips you could give our readers for maintaining a healthy heart?
Well you know if you make a habit of following a diet that includes 8-10 servings of fresh fruit and vegetables, low fat dairy products, low fat sources of protein, such as fish, poultry, beans, and nuts is a great way to lower your risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and stroke. Including plenty of foods rich in potassium, calcium, and magnesium and phosphorous will help keep a healthy heart, as well as keep you feeling great.