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Potassium Part 2

People over 50 may also want to increase their potassium intake—as we age, our bodies use potassium less efficiently, which may account for some of the circulatory damage, lethargy, and weakness experienced by older people. The secretion of stress hormones causes a decrease in the potassium-to-sodium ration both inside and outside the cells, so you may want to consume more potassium if you are under a lot of stress.

Low dietary intake of potassium alone does not generally result in hypokalemia, but research indicates it may increase the risk of developing high blood pressure that can lead to heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and osteoporosis.

There is currently no Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for potassium, but in 2004 the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine established an adequate intake level (AI) based on intake levels that have been found to lower blood pressure and minimize the risk of kidney stones. The AI for everyone over 10 is 2,000 milligrams. This is very easy to get from a balanced diet—a medium baked potato has 844 milligrams, and a glass or orange juice has 474 milligrams of potassium.

Good natural sources of potassium include dairy foods, fish, fruit, beans, meat, poultry, vegetables, and whole grains. Black beans, potatoes, apricots, avocados, bananas, blackstrap molasses, brewer’s yeast, brown rice, dates, figs, dried fruit, garlic, nuts, potatoes, raisins, winter squash, wheat bran, and yams are especially high in potassium.

Herbs such as catnip, hops, horsetail, nettle, plantain, red clover, sage, and skullcap also contain this mineral.

Most people get plenty of potassium from their food, but too much sodium from salt, which leads to an abnormal cell membrane potential. In fact, the diets of industrialized cultures contain about 3 times more sodium than potassium, which may play a role in the increased occurrence of some chronic diseases in modern society.

If you are really interested in lowering your blood pressure and greatly reducing your risk of stroke, you should not only consume more calcium, but also reduce your overall sodium (watch the salt!) in your food.

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