Sodium and potassium are two important elements that play a vital role in the metabolic processes in the human body. Maintaining the ratio between these two elements is key to good health. Learn more about the sodium-potassium ratio, and its effects on various organs, through this NutriNeat article.
According to the American Heart Association, an average American consumes between 2,500 to 7,500 mg of sodium, as opposed to the mere 1500 mg or less recommended for an adult, and only 2,500 mg of potassium, as against the 4,700 mg daily recommended intake.
Sodium and potassium are two essential elements that are needed to regulate blood pressure and play an active part in many bodily functions. Often, more emphasis is laid on the intake of either one of these. However, studies have found that, not only the quantities of these two nutrients, but their ratio also plays an essential role in the body.
The regulation and maintenance of sodium and potassium levels in and outside cells is very important for the normal functioning of the body. These elements work together, and hence, it is important to know more about these two together.
Role of Sodium and Potassium in the Body
- The sodium-potassium pump is necessary for the creation of the chemical battery or electrical potential gradient, that helps the transmission of nerve signals as well as contraction of muscles. It also helps regulate heartbeats.
- These nutrients are essential for the smooth-functioning of the kidneys.
- They regulate the fluid balance, and help maintain the cardiovascular health of the body.
- They help maintain the acid-base balance in the body.
- Potassium eliminates sodium from the cells, and thus prevents accumulation of fluids in the cells. Collection of fluids may cause the cells to swell and burst due to pressure.
Eating foods that are low in sodium and high in potassium can also assist in the prevention of kidney diseases and heart troubles caused by high blood pressure.
Dr. Richard Moore, MD, PhD, in his book The High Blood Pressure Solution: Natural Prevention and Cure with the K Factor, showcases that eating according to the K factor can protect against hypertension, strokes, and untimely death. The K factor is defined as a sodium-to-potassium ratio of at least one to four.
Sodium and potassium have opposite effects on the heart. While we know that high salt intake increases blood pressure, high potassium levels lower blood pressure by relaxing the blood vessels. Potassium activates nitric oxide to reduce pressure in the arteries, and thus, lowers the risk of hypertension.
Sodium in the cells disturbs the fluid balance, and excess water levels again put pressure on the heart. To overcome this, an increased potassium intake is recommended, as more the potassium levels in the body, more amount sodium is extracted out.
Fruits and vegetables are a rich source of potassium. Hence, it is necessary to cut down on processed foods and increase the consumption of these healthy and balanced foods.
Why You Should Maintain Sodium to Potassium Ratio
Our ancestors consumed about 16 times more potassium than sodium. According to a report in the Archives of Internal Medicine, a high sodium intake, especially with a low potassium intake, is associated with a greater chance of having a heart attack or stroke, needing a bypass surgery, or an untimely death due to cardiovascular diseases.
Studies suggest that low potassium intake is the cause of almost 90 – 95% high blood pressure cases and strokes.
Improper ratio may also cause kidney stones and osteoporosis.
A healthy body will balance the potassium levels in the body, however, excessive fluid loss by vomiting, diarrhea, etc., can cause the loss of potassium in the body.
According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found that an increase of only 390 mg of potassium averaged daily, decreased the risk of a stroke by 40% over a period of 12 years, irrespective of blood pressure.
If suffering from kidney diseases, adrenal exhaustion, or hypertension, increasing potassium intake should be avoided.
So, cutting down on salt and increasing your potassium intake will keep your heart and body healthy. Spinach, bananas, broccoli, and prunes are good sources of potassium.
Adopting a lifestyle with salubrious dietary changes, coupled with exercising, can work wonders for the body. However, consult your physician before starting any new regime.
Disclaimer: This NutriNeat article is for informative purposes only, and should not be replaced for the advice of a medical professional. You should consult your physician/dietitian before changing your diet, especially if you are suffering from any medical condition.