How Potassium Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

Understanding the benefits of potassium

Foods rich in potassium are important in managing high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. Potassium can reduce the effects of sodium.  Too much sodium has been shown to increase blood pressure. The more potassium you eat, the more sodium you lose through urine. Potassium also helps to ease tension in your blood vessel walls, which also helps lower blood pressure.

Adults with blood pressure 120/80 mm Hg or higher who are otherwise healthy may benefit from increasing potassium in their diet. Potassium can be harmful in people with:

  • Kidney disease
  • Any condition that affects how the body handles potassium
  • Certain medications

Ask your health care professional if you should eat more potassium.

Learn how to reduce the sodium in your diet. You should also add other healthy eating and lifestyle habits.

Potassium and your diet

Recommended potassium intake for an average adult:

  • Men: 3,400 milligrams per day
  • Women: 2,600 milligrams per day

These recommendations change with pregnancy and breastfeeding.

If you are trying to prevent or treat high blood pressure, the AHA recommends 3,500 mg to 5,000 mg of potassium daily.

The DASH diet includes good sources of potassium. DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. This diet includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat dairy foods and fish. For example, a medium banana has about 451 milligrams of potassium and half a cup of plain cooked sweet potatoes has 286 mg. You can search our recipe collection for potassium-rich ingredients.

Other potassium-rich foods include:

  • Fruits
    • Apricots
    • Cantaloupe
    • Durian
    • Guava
    • Jackfruit
    • Kiwifruit
    • Orange juice
    • Pomegranate juice
    • Prune juice
  • Vegetables
    • Acorn squash
    • Bamboo shoots
    • Beet greens
    • Carrot juice
    • Fufu
    • Lima beans
    • Plantains
    • Potato
    • Spinach
    • Swiss chard
    • Water chestnuts
    • Yam
  • Dairy
    • Buttermilk (low fat)
    • Kefir
    • Milk (fat free)
    • Yogurt (Greek and plain)
  • Proteins
    • Bison
    • Catfish
    • Clams
    • Goat
    • Herring
    • Rainbow trout
    • Skipjack tuna
    • Tempeh 

Can you have too much potassium?

Eating too much potassium can be harmful in people with kidney problems. Too much potassium can build up when your kidneys are less able to remove it from your blood. Too much potassium can also be harmful in people that take certain medications or have certain medical conditions that affect potassium.

Potassium levels often must be very high before symptoms occur. Symptoms could include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Irregular heart rate
  • Fainting
  • Muscle weakness

Check with a health care professional before taking an over-the-counter potassium supplement. Also ask before trying salt substitutes. They can raise potassium too much in people with some health conditions and taking some medications.