Healthy blood pressure (part 3)

October 21, 2013

drHeart disease, cardiovascular disease (CVD), is the leading cause of death for all Americans age 35 and older. This means men and women among all racial and ethnic groups. According the Centers for Disease Control, over 600,000 people died of heart disease in 2008, 25 percent of all deaths. In other words, one in four Americans died of heart disease in 2008.
High blood pressure (HBP) is a major health problem in the U.S. The CDC estimates that 1 in 3 U.S. adults – about 68 million – has high blood pressure. In 2008, HBP was listed as a primary or contributing cause of death for more than 347,000 Americans. African Americans are especially susceptible, and are one of the most likely ethnic groups in the world to receive the diagnosis. HBP has also been diagnosed in two-thirds of Americans over 65 and in a growing number of young adults and children.
Magic Minerals
While there is nearly universal agreement about the importance of limiting sodium intake for people with HBP, it is equally important to increase your intake of both potassium and magnesium.
Potassium works with sodium to help regulate fluids in the cells, and to equalize the acid-alkaline balance in the blood. To function correctly, these minerals need to be in a ratio of 5:1, potassium to sodium. Presently, the typical American diet includes twice as much sodium as potassium. This results in water retention and the loss of potassium through the urine. Researchers from the University of Mississippi report that too little potassium and too much sodium may be a major contributing factor in the development of HBP.
To study the effects of potassium, researchers at Duke University ran double-blind studies using potassium supplements. Participants receiving the supplements had a significant reduction in blood pressure. African Americans showed the biggest drop. Blood pressure went down almost 20 points, causing the speculation that this sub-group might be particularly sensitive to the blood pressure lowering effects of potassium. Also, animal studies have shown potassium to be protective against both kidney damage and stroke. Both of these major health problems can occur because of ongoing high blood pressure.
Magnesium also plays a part. The body cannot store potassium without magnesium. Adequate amounts of the two insure that potassium functions more efficiently, eliminating excess sodium and excess fluids. Surprisingly, magnesium alone can reduce HBP at doses of only 370 mg/d. This was discovered by Lindsey Kass in her meta-analysis of 22 clinical trials (over 1100 patients). The study was reported in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Dietary sources of potassium include sea veggies (highest), legumes (particularly soybeans), apple juice, apricots, avocados, bananas, beets, cantaloupes, carrots, oranges, pears, white and sweet potatoes, raisins, salmon, sardines, watermelon, and winter squash. The RDA is 1.9-5.6 grams per day.
Magnesium is highest in kelp, wheat germ and bran, almonds and other nuts, and soy and other legumes. Small amounts (under 100 mg) occur in many fruits and vegetables. The recommended intake ranges from 300-500 mg.
Regarding calcium, reports state a “major controversy” surrounding its usefulness in lowering blood pressure. However, it is noted that up to 30 percent of people with HBP also excrete calcium in their urine, adding that such persons might find more calcium useful. Reports also state that calcium supplements (2 g/d) have lowered blood pressure in people who are salt sensitive. The authors of a 1985 study in JAMA report finding that African American men have lower calcium levels partly as a result of being lactose intolerant.
Calcium is found in yogurt and other milk products, soybeans, sardines, salmon, peanuts, sunflower seeds, and leafy greens. The RDA is 800-1500 mg. The DASH Diet supplies 1200 mg of calcium daily.

Continued next week:
Too Salty?