functional medicine high blood pressureAccording to an article published last month in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (CJASN), a diet rich in potassium may help protect the kidney and heart of diabetic patients.

Potassium is an essential mineral for the proper function of all cells. It is also an electrolyte and is crucial to heart function. Many individuals get sufficient amounts of potassium from their diet, however, many individuals consume a western diet and may not be meeting their metabolic needs especially for those with chronic metabolic conditions.

Urinary potassium has been shown to correlate with intake amounts. In this study researchers have demonstrated that higher levels of urinary potassium excretion were linked with a slower decline of kidney function and a lower prevalence of cardiovascular issues in diabetic patients with normal kidney function.

Patients with type 2 diabetes are at increased risk of kidney and heart disease. One of the challenges for these patients is what to eat. They get many mixed messages from practitioners, associations, or lack patient education on proper lifestyle and nutritional recommendation. The results of this study demonstrate the importance of a diet rich in potassium. Dietary sources include bananas, avocados, cantaloupes, tomatoes, salmon, cod, chicken, and other meats.

Potassium is well documented in role in cardiovascular health. Previous studies have shown that individuals with a higher sodium-potassium ratio have a higher risk of heart disease and all-cause mortality. Additional studies demonstrate that heart attack patients who have moderate potassium levels, between 3.5 and 4.5 mEq/L, have a lower risk of death.

Other studies have linked low levels of potassium with high blood pressure. There is also evidence that potassium supplements decrease blood pressure. I have personally seen this with my hypertensive patients that have low RBC potassium. With that being said, a potassium supplement will only lower blood pressure if the patient is deficient. Additional studies suggest that increasing potassium intake reduces the risk of cardiovascular death. It is also important to note that diuretic medications may cause a potassium deficiency.

Source: S.-i. Araki, M. Haneda, D. Koya, K. Kondo, S. Tanaka, H. Arima, S. Kume, J. Nakazawa, M. Chin-Kanasaki, S. Ugi, H. Kawai, H. Araki, T. Uzu, H. Maegawa. Urinary Potassium Excretion and Renal and Cardiovascular Complications in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes and Normal Renal Function. Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, 2015; DOI: 10.2215/CJN.00980115

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