Are You Getting Enough Potassium?

  • By Kim Chul-joong

    October 29, 2022 08:27

    Does healthy circulation depend on getting the right balance of potassium and salt? Some new theories suggest it does. 
    People in the Stone Age are believed to have ingested around 11,000 mg of potassium a day but their salt intake was less than 700 mg or a ration of 1:16. That was possible due to a high proportion of fruit, vegetables, leaves and roots in their food, which is sometimes touted as the "paleo" diet. 
    But people today eat far more salt, which can lead to high blood pressure, while potassium lowers blood pressure. 
    Excessive consumption of sodium is a health risk all over the world as people eat more and more processed food. High salt intake has been linked to cardiovascular illnesses, stroke, kidney problems, osteoporosis and stomach cancer. 
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    The government has launched a campaign to reduce salt intake, but that is not easy in modern society. Koreans consume around 3,300 mg of salt a day on average, twice the World Health Organization’s daily recommended amount, although sodium intake has dropped significantly compared to almost 5,000 mg a day a decade ago. 
    But Koreans consume only around 2,900 mg of potassium a day on average.
    Since salt consumption is hard to discourage, especially in countries where the national cuisine depends so heavily on it, the U.S. and Japan are promoting potassium intake instead. The aim is to restore the balance and mitigate the harmful effects of excessive sodium intake with more potassium.
    Cells must ingest potassium to excrete excess sodium and lower the risk of hypertension and other ailments. The level of potassium and sodium can be gauged with a urine test. 
    According to a 24-year study of around 8,000 people in Japan, higher intake levels of sodium than potassium increased the risk of heart disease by 39 percent and stroke by 43 percent. That led to a movement in Japan to conduct regular tests on sodium and potassium levels.
    Given their salt intake, Koreans should consume 3,500 mg of potassium a day. But the body does not store potassium, so that means eating plenty of vegetables, beans and other potassium-rich foods. Bananas, tomatoes and oranges contain a lot of potassium, as do raisins, spinach, broccoli, cucumbers, potatoes, zucchinis and dried jujubes. 
    Tuna, cod and brown rice are also rich in potassium, but pickled vegetables are not.
    Kim Sung-kwon at Seoul National University School of Medicine said eating less salt is extremely effective in reducing the risk of heart disease. But he warned that people suffering from kidney problems should not boost potassium intake significantly. 
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