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Written by Helen Chu, MS RDN, US Registered Dietitian

High blood pressure is a major risk factor for stroke, kidney failure and heart disease. High blood pressure increases with age, generally affecting adults aged 50 and above.

Almost everyone knows that reducing sodium or salt intake helps control high blood pressure. Actually potassium is just as important. Potassium helps maintain normal blood pressure by lessening the effect of sodium. It also eases the tension in blood vessel walls which helps to lower blood pressure.  Studies have linked an eating pattern rich in potassium to a lower risk of stroke.

Potassium, a mineral, helps muscle contract and regulates fluid and mineral balance. It also protects against loss of muscle mass, preserve bone strength and reduce risk of kidney stones.

How much potassium to consume?  

General   guideline  

WHO (World Health Organization) recommends a daily intake of 3500 mg of potassium. Major sources of potassium are fruits and vegetables. WHO also recommends a daily consumption of a minimum of 5 servings of fruits/vegetables. The 2014-15 HK Population Health Survey revealed that 94.4% of the population aged 15 and above ate less than 5 servings per day.

The  institute of Medicine of US National Academy of Science encourages adults to consume at  least 4700 mg potassium everyday    

How  to meet potassium needs

It is not  difficult to  boost one’s  potassium intake. Potassium is found in a wide range of foods especially fruits and vegetables, but also in dairy products, meat, nuts. Below is a list of common food rich in potassium:

Fruits : orange, grapefruit, banana, kiwi, papaya, persimmon, honey dew, figs, cantaloupe, prune juice, dried apricots, guava, durian

Vegetables :  bamboo shoot, lotus root, watercress, tomato, carrot, spinach, broccoli, sweet potato, carrot juice, white potato, pumpkin, taro, bitter melon, kale

Meat:  salmon,sardines


It’s not the more the better

It is possible to have too much of a good thing !!

Potassium  supplement : Do not take potassium supplement unless prescribed by a doctor. High dosage of potassium may lead to dangerous irregular heart beat, which can result in cardiac arrests and can be fatal. It is best to get potassium from dietary sources.

Too much potassium may be harmful to people with kidney diseases.  As  the kidney is less able to removepotassium from the blood, the mineral may build up to a dangerous level

People with certain cardiac conditions are advised to consume under 4700 mg daily. Some hypertension medication such as ACE inhibitors can increase potassium retention. Consult the doctor for specific guidance on potassium intake


Bottom Line

It is important to note that there are factors such as smoking, physical activity, stress, body weight that can increase risk of stroke. Engage in healthy lifestyle, healthy eating plan – high in fruits and vegetable, and less sugar, fat and salt  may have a positive impact on blood pressure and overall health.