Posts Tagged ‘blood pressure’

The Importance of Potassium for Your Overall Health

Potassium is a mineral that is indispensable for your cells to function normally. It is one of the primary blood minerals that is referred to as an electrolyte, and they conduct electricity when they are mixed with water. What does this mean to your body? They help to control nerve and muscle function, balance blood acidity/pressure, rebuild tissue that has been damaged, and hydrate. Potassium is more easily absorbed than sodium and initiates a brief sodium-potassium exchange across cell membranes. The sodium-potassium flux creates the electrical potential in the nerve cells that help your nerve impulses. The electrical potential gradient assists with the generation of muscle and regulates the heartbeat. This prohibits the cells from swelling because if the sodium is not released, water will accumulate and eventually will cause it to burst. Potassium is also a critical mineral when it comes to cellular biochemical reactions and energy metabolism, as it has a role in the synthesis of protein from amino acids in the cells. Potassium can also participate in carbohydrate metabolism due to its activity in glycogen and glucose metabolism, which is why it is important for building muscle and growth. Red blood cells contain the majority of the potassium levels in your body, which is why red blood cell levels are better indicators of the potassium quantity than common blood serum levels.  This is why your physician may order a blood lab test for a Complete Blood Count and Complete Metabolic Panel to determine how your red blood cells are functioning along with your electrolytes.  Don’t forget you can use a discount online blood lab test service to save you money on all blood lab tests.

 

In the earlier times of humankind, the Paleolithic diet provided about 16 times more potassium than sodium as compared to modern diets. Nowadays, the average American gets about 50 percent of the recommended potassium and consumes twice as much sodium than potassium. This is mainly due to the processed foods that have an excessive amount of salt and low potassium content. The potassium mineral can be found in a wide range of foods.   For instance, most of all fresh produce has high potassium and low sodium content.   However, canned produce may lose some of its potassium content during processing.

Some vegetables that have a substantial amount of potassium include

  • leafy greens like lettuce, spinach, and parsley,
  • legumes like lima beans, kidney beans, and lentils,
  • tomatoes, and
  • potato skins.

Some great fruit options to help increase your potassium intake are

  • bananas,
  • apples,
  • oranges,
  • avocado, and
  • raisins.

Whole grains with potassium include

  • oatmeal,
  • brown rice, and
  • barley,
  • nuts, and
  • wheat germs

If you are looking for protein options, you can choose from fish like salmon, sardine, and cod. Lastly, some herbs you can use to season your food to help increase your daily consumption of potassium are sage, horsetail, red clover, and nettle.

Importance of Potassium

Although 90 percent of potassium is absorbed by the small intestine, it is also one of the most soluble minerals, so it can be lost through processing and cooking. Excess potassium is removed from the body through urine and sweat, which is why it is important to replenish your fluids with vegetable or orange juice. The kidneys are responsible for regulating the potassium levels in the body and keep steady blood levels while these levels variate. Magnesium helps maintain potassium in the cells. This means incorporating magnesium into your diet could be beneficial to maintain healthy potassium levels. Some examples of magnesium-rich foods include almonds, avocados, tofu, dark chocolate, spinach, chard, quinoa, bananas, and okra. Potassium loss can be triggered by the intake of caffeinated drinks, sugar, and diuretic drugs. You can also deplete your potassium levels with diarrhea or vomiting.

Most commonly used minerals

In fields like biochemistry and medicine, potassium is one of the most commonly used minerals. Its relationship between hypertension and cardiovascular health, it is often added to supplements. As mentioned previously, the American diet has reversed the high potassium-low sodium balance, so a supplement may help with balancing these out and reducing elevated blood pressure. A potassium supplement can be helpful to treat hypertension that has been specifically caused by large amounts of sodium. Studies have found that adults that take a potassium supplement systolic and diastolic blood pressure. It can be especially beneficial to those over the age of 65 because older adults tend to not respond to blood pressure-lowering drugs, so a potassium supplement may be a great alternative. Additionally, potassium chloride is sometimes used to alleviate headaches, allergies, and infant colic.

 

High or low levels of this mineral can cause health complications that can sometimes even be severe, which is why it is important to maintain a healthy level in the blood and cells.  Remember you can order your own blood lab tests at HealthOneLabs.com if you need to you’re your current levels of potassium.  Excess potassium consumption is often not an issue because the kidneys will flush the excess out. Elevated levels of this mineral are referred to as hyperkalemia, and most commonly occurs when renal function is decreased, gastrointestinal bleeding, major infection, or rapid protein breakdown. Hyperkalemia affects cardiac function and can be seen through electrocardiograms.

Heart Benefits and Side Effects

High blood pressure is one of the risk factors for strokes, so it makes sense that higher levels of potassium are related to lower risk of stroke. Studies have found that those that consume an adequate amount of potassium were associated with lower risks of stroke. Potassium deficiency is much more common, especially in those over the age of 65 and those with chronic illnesses. Low potassium levels are associated with hypertension, fatigue, depression, cardiac arrhythmia, and congestive heart failure. One of the most common symptoms of deficiency is fatigue. Some symptoms include slow reflexes, dry skin, muscle weakness, and may eventually progress to insomnia, irregular heartbeat, nervous disorders, and loss of intestinal tone.

 

The imbalance of potassium and sodium is one of the main contributors to high blood pressure, which affects 1 of 3 American Adults. Physicians often prescribe Diuretics to reduce sodium levels, but they also decrease potassium levels even more, which can worsen underlying issues. The optimal course of action is to increase potassium-rich foods, reducing salt consumption, and following an exercise routine to improve physical stamina and cardiovascular tone. The ideal sodium to potassium consumption is 1:2. This means that when you increase sodium intake, you should also increase potassium intake either through foods of a supplement. Never take a supplement without consulting your physician first. The recommended potassium intake is 4,700 mg and some good sources include bananas, apricots, orange juice, prunes, potatoes, and squash. A natural diet that is composed of main vegetables, fruits, and whole grains is high in potassium and low in sodium, which can help stabilize blood pressure and prevent hypertension.

Take control of your Health and order your own discount blood lab tests online at www.HealthOneLabs.com


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How Stress can Affect your Health

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Stress can be responsible for some health issues you may be having such as constant migraines, reduced productivity, and even insomnia. Many don’t understand the toll stress can take on their body, which is why it’s important you find ways to manage it. Stress is most commonly known to affect your behavior, feelings, and thoughts, but it can also affect your physical health. High levels of stress that are not managed for an extended period of time can increase blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Some signs you may be under too much stress are headaches, fatigue, chest pains, weariness, anxiety, depression, mood swings, change in eating pattern, and drug/alcohol abuse. There are many techniques you can try out to see what works best for you. You can try meditation, exercise, being social, and/or practicing one of your hobbies. Many times when you think of destressing you think of just going home and watching tv, playing video games, or surfing the internet. These inactive activities may actually increase your stress in the long run, so try going for activities that require you are active. If you have tried the techniques mentioned and are still not feeling any relief, you may want to reach out to a professional for help.


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Blood Pressure – Watch your Numbers

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Blood pressure is self explanatory: it is the pressure of the blood in the circulatory system.Your blood pressure is recorded as two numbers:

  • Systolic blood pressure (the upper number) — indicates how much pressure your blood is exerting against your artery walls when the heart beats.
  • Diastolic blood pressure (the lower number) — indicates how much pressure your blood is exerting against your artery walls while the heart is resting between beats.

It is important that your systolic blood pressure (upper number) remain under 120 rather than just below 140 because it reduces your risk of heart failures or strokes by 33%. Often times when people are trying to lower their blood pressure they always go to drugs right away, but lifestyle changes can be just as effective and permanent. People with high blood pressure typically don’t exercise, are overweight, store fat in their bellies, eat a lot of sugary/fried food, and/or have low levels of vitamin D. Changing eating habits and staying active can go a long way when trying to lower your blood pressure. The best time to check your blood pressure is before you go to sleep at night or right after you wake up because these times are when your blood pressure is the lowest, so if it is above 120 during these times then you should make some lifestyle changes.

Click here for the American Heart Association suggestions on how to take your blood pressure readings.

Generally, physicians are more concerned with the systolic blood pressure (the top number) because it is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease for people over 50.   As you age, the systolic blood pressure can rise due to increased stiffness in the large arteries and build-up of plaque. There is also risk of high diastolic measurements also:  the risk of death from ischemic heart disease and stroke doubles with every 20 mm Hg systolic or 10 mm Hg diastolic increase among people from age 40 to 89.

The following are a few recommendations to help lower your blood pressure:

  • Limit alcohol to no more than 2 drinks a day, and if possible avoid it
  • Avoid sugary/fried foods
  • Exercise, build muscle
  • Keep Vitamin D levels above 75 nmol/L
  • Try not to consume red meats or processed meats & foods
  • Try to avoid smoking and reduce your exposure to air pollutants

Take control of your health!


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In a meta-analysis of 10 chocolate studies, researchers found that eating dark chocolate reduced LDL cholesterol by more than 6 mg/dL. This isn’t a big drop, but it is significant when combined with other healthy foods that lower cholesterol.

dark chocolate image resized 600

Flavanols, the substances found in dark chocolate that are thought to be protective, have been long known to be good for the cardiovascular system. Flavanols are thought to work by slowing cholesterol absorption. Dark chocolate is also a strong antioxidant and may help protect the cardiovascular system that way as well. Other studies show that dark chocolate can improve endothelial function and lower blood pressure – two measures of cardiovascular health.

These findings confirm results from another meta-analysis published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition last year. In this similar study, researchers also found that dark chocolate lowered LDL cholesterol levels by about 6 mg/dL.   It’s easy to add dark chocolate to your diet and it’s you can order your own lab tests to check your cholesterol blood levels.

Another meta-analysis of seven studies including 114,009 people, looked at chocolate intake and the risk of developing a cardiovascular disorder.

Researchers found that those who consumed the highest level of chocolate, versus the lowest level, had a 37-percent decrease in cardiovascular disease, and a 29-percent reduction in stroke.

So, if you enjoy chocolate and want a treat occasionally, you don’t have to feel guilty. It’s important to remember, however, that dark chocolate is also high in calories. If you are going to have dark chocolate, eat only a moderate amount so you don’t increase your body weight. You might also consider walking an extra mile or two to walk off some of the calories. That way you’ll get a double benefit – dark chocolate and the benefit of exercise.

Sources:

Wellsource, February 2013 Newsletter
European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2011.
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2010.
British Medical Journal, 2011.

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Medical Disclaimer: The information included on this site is for informational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult his or her health care provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan. The writer is not a physician or other health provider.


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