The human body is a complex network system that works 24×7. Packed with a number of different functions each one must stay balanced. And a very important function is to maintain the blood pressure levels. As soon as an individual is diagnosed with High Blood Pressure the first recommendation given is to lower the salt consumption. This means that bringing down high blood pressure levels to normal need a fine balance of Potassium and Sodium. Potassium and Sodium work in a ratio of 3:1 in the human body – 3 parts Potassium for 1 part Sodium. High Blood pressure may have many causes but there is always one common factor and that is the imbalance between Potassium and Sodium levels. And of course excessive salt. Therefore, it becomes necessary to understand these two body minerals.
Understanding Potassium and Sodium
The body’s two major electrolytes are Potassium and Sodium. That means both conduct electricity. And they are the essential nutrients to carry out important body functions like nerve conduction, energy production, cell integrity and many other crucial functions of the body. When salt dissolves it breaks down to form the electrolytes sodium and chloride. Water containing salt contains sodium and chloride and both are electrically charged ions. The cells within the tissues and organs in the body all contain fluids and are floating in fluids externally too. This fluid is made up of important chemicals like sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and chloride. Potassium is the primary and most important electrolyte inside the cell. And the intra-cellular fluid contains more potassium than sodium making it the primary chemical. And vice versa the extracellular fluid bathing the cells contains more sodium than potassium, so sodium is the primary or dominant electrolyte in the extracellular fluid.
Chloride complements both these chemicals. The deficiency of potassium and sodium is easy to bring back to normal by making alterations in the diet. And most foods provide ample of the two nutrients. In fact it is a problem that sodium levels can rise way higher by consuming too many salty foods.
The Heart, The Kidney and Reverse Osmosis
The heart and kidney play a vital role in maintaining the blood pressure levels and processing the body chemicals. When the extracellular fluids become over dosed with sodium the kidney and heart starts working harder to bring things back to normal. The kidneys begin to excrete excess sodium. But in case the kidneys are unable to function well and excrete sufficient sodium from the blood then the peripheral vascular system i.e. the heart jumps into action then constricts and increases resistance to blood flow, causing the blood pressure to increase, which then forces the kidneys to excrete more sodium.
This body process is very similar to the common process of Reverse Osmosis practiced in the field of engineering. In reverse osmosis, pressure is elevated to force impurities across a membrane. In a situation where the sodium levels are running high similarly the heart constricts the peripheral system elevating the blood pressure. Engineers apply the process of reverse osmosis to push out impurities from membranes. The home water purifying systems too work on the same mechanical process which helps make water pure and pushing out impurities.
However, when the body uses this process, the blood pressure can rise to dangerous levels putting the patient a high risk of various problems like a cardiac arrest or a stroke. The constriction of the peripheral system causes the body to retain more fluid – which is commonly known as fluid retention, making the individual feel bloated. Increasing the fluid volume dilutes the sodium, lowering the ratio of sodium chloride to potassium. Increase in fluids also enables the kidneys to excrete both water and sodium. The only risk is that the blood pressure is elevated to accomplish the task. If the elevation takes place often the blood volume increases and the vascular system keeps the blood pressure elevated causing a high blood pressure problem. The reverse osmosis and fluid retention, work together to return the K-factor ratio to normal.
What’s the K Factor
The perfect balance of potassium and sodium is called the K-factor. It enables cells to carry out their functions correctly. Diet has a strong effect on the levels of various minerals and chemicals that run bodily functions. Excess sodium comes from the food we eat; similarly, inadequate potassium is also primarily a dietary deficiency. Around 1974, papers started appearing in medical journals indicating when the dietary potassium to sodium ratio, the K-factor, falls below 3 and drops to about 1 or even 1.5, high blood pressure goes high dramatically. The research clearly indicates that the dietary potassium to sodium ratio is critical and that individuals can control their blood pressure simply through the kind of food they eat.
Lower High BP with Smart Dietary changes
Chalk out a fresh new diet plan that is rich in potassium and lower in sodium. A dietary change is a lifestyle change. You simply have to change what you eat and watch the effect it has on your body. Right nutrition is half the battle won when it comes to treating a high Blood Pressure problem. Unprocessed foods, especially vegetables, are naturally high in potas- sium and low in sodium. Nature works wonderfully on the body if it is given a chance.
Here’s what you can do:
- Avoid processed foods. Say no to foods that come out of a packet. They are high in sodium content and also contain harmful preservatives.
- Eat fresh and eat natural foods.
- Consume a good probiotic supplement. Research indicates it lowers cholesterol and helps your heart and kidney function better and supports your gut.
- Steam and Stir-fry. Find salt-free recipes and include them in your diet.
- Soups and Salads can be a great addition to your diet. There’s a huge variety that tastes good without salt.
- Eat bananas and other fresh fruits
- Go for cereals and oats during breakfast. Try soymilk or skimmed milk.
If you are fighting with a High Blood Pressure problem or have been just diagnosed with High Blood Pressure you can do your health a huge favor by making dietary changes. Dietary changes may seem tough to begin with but as you go along each day you will like what you eat and may be never want to go back to the old ways.
Author – Krupa Parekh
Krupa is a dietician and nutritionist based in Mumbai and consults at our Andheri West Centre for our clients in Diabetes and Obesity Management, Detoxification therapy and specializes in creating bespoke Nutrition plans for kids, teenagers and adults by integrating correct food habits around one’s lifestyle. Read more about Krupa here – http://www.wellintra.com/diet-and-nutrition/.