Minerals and High Blood Pressure

Electrolytes are very necessary for proper functioning of body. This includes mainly sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium. One of the risk factor for high blood pressure is high sodium level. Although disturbances in levels of potassium, calcium and magnesium affect BP. Let’s discuss in detail about minerals and high blood pressure.

Sodium and high blood pressure

One of the main factors responsible for high blood pressure is increased salt intake.  Therefore, Correlation between minerals and high blood pressure can be better understood by taking example of sodium. Sodium is indeed very important element required by body. Salt regulates blood pressure, transmits nerve impulse, and maintains cell integrity and fluid balance.  But salt cannot perform all such function without the help of potassium. Potassium is abundant inside the cell membrane and sodium is present at outer membrane.

An exchange between this ions results in generation of impulse which helps in conduction of important function of body like pumping of heart, muscle contraction, enzymatic process or release of enzymes by gastric cells into the stomach. Normally for every 3 molecules of potassium, one molecule of sodium gets exchanged.  Thus what we require is adequate balance between sodium and potassium.  The ratio of potassium to sodium is known as K- factor. Thus, 3:1 is the proper ration or k- factor of 3 is required for proper functioning of heart. When we buy any food preparation, check for potassium and sodium content and then calculate k- factor accordingly. K factor varies with the food item.

K factor would be more in low salt food. If you are not able to find out k factor, then just go for foods that display labels like no salt added, reduced salt, no sodium or unsalted because low amount of salt can itself the solve the problem of hypertension. But how salt raises blood pressure? Although human body has natural mechanism to deal with high sodium level in blood, like excess of sodium gets excreted via kidney. But in many situations, kidney is not able to excrete out sodium effectively. As a result, more sodium remains in the blood. An increase in sodium level triggers angiotensin system which causes blood vessel constriction and increases resistance to blood flow and finally blood pressure rises.

The daily recommended dose of sodium for adults is 2300mg for a healthy individual. But the dose of 1500mg is recommended for peoples like

  • Above 51 years of age
  • An African American
  • Patient suffering with disease like diabetes or kidney disorder.

There is dose dependant relation between salt and high blood pressure. As the level of salt increases, blood pressure also increases and by cutting down salt level BP drops down. But the many physicians believe that it is not necessary that all individuals will be benefited by reducing salt intake. But hypertensive patients should definitely reduce their salt intake. About 70-75% of salt is added from processed foods.1 Salt is added to increase flavour and for preserving for a longer time. Some tips for reducing salt level is provided below-

minerals and blood pressure

  • Focus more on fresh fruits and vegetables. Eat at least 2-3 servings of fruit in a day. Avoid canned products. Fruit juices also provide with equal benefit as fresh fruits. Canned juices doesn’t consist more salt in it, but sugar level is high in such preparation. If you are bored of eating fruits, you can go for consuming it in the form of juices or as a part of salad dressing. Fresh vegetables are either boiled or cooked. During boiling don’t add salt and while cooking, add limited amount of salt and be careful regarding the cooking oil used. Don’t utilise sunflower or safflower oil for cooking as it has more content of polyunsaturated fatty acid.
  • Use fresh poultry, fish or meat. Don’t buy processed food item especially when level of salt is above 100mg.
  • Start your day by eating cereals. Don’t drink milk with cereals because milk consists of 120 mg sodium and 325 mg potassium. This combination can increase sodium intake by body. 
  • Avoid salt loaded food items. You can go for substitutes like horseradish, Tabasco which compensate the requirement of salt and also the need for flavour. The amount if salt in Tabasco is less i.e. six drops of Tabasco provides with only 15mg of salt. Herbs, spices like ginger, onion can also be added to enhance flavour, plus they even lower high blood pressure.
  • Drinking water also contains sodium. So, charged seltzer water or simply boiled water reduces salt intake through water. Water is also present in beverages like coffee, tea or soda. Avoid soda as it has highest amount of salt.
  • Regular exercise also helps in reducing increase blood pressure due to high salt level in body.

Potassium and high blood pressure

Potassium is the mineral which cannot be left out while discussing about mineral and high blood pressure. Potassium and sodium are equally important in regulating BP and maintenance of high blood pressure. Generally high amount of sodium increases BP but low amount of potassium also increases BP. Potassium helps in proper functioning of heart, muscles and nervous system. Thus potassium is one of the important regulators of blood pressure. Potassium maintains blood pressure by facilitating excretion of excess sodium via kidney. There many cases where hypertension occurs to deficiency of potassium in body. Potassium deficiency increases the chances stroke by 2.6% in men and by 5%in women than those with normal potassium level.

Johns Hopkins University of have demonstrated the effect of potassium on high blood pressure. Two groups of African American suffering from hypertension were selected. One group was given potassium supplements and the second one was treated with placebo for 3 weeks. At the end study, it was observed that systolic blood pressure was reduced by 6.9 points and diastolic by 2.5 points. Therefore the importance of potassium for hypertensive individual can be understood from this study.

Measures to Increase Potassium level

With the changing trends in our society, our food habits are also changed. Daily recommended value for potassium up to 5grams and the potassium and sodium intake should be ratio of 5:1. But nowadays instead of including more vegetables and fruits in diet, people enjoy eating more sodium rich processed foods or fast foods. Therefore, they simply reverse the ratio; more sodium intake and less potassium. Such food habits increases chances of development of hypertension. Isn’t its necessary that you should do something to have healthy heart? Well you don’t have to compromise a lot as there are several other delicious food preparation and also great source of potassium.

The first step you need to take is limiting your salt intake. Its little bit difficult to exclude salt completely from food as it may be boring and tasteless for some people. However, this problem can be avoided by use of salt- substituted products that consist of more potassium than sodium.one teaspoonful of salt substituted products of brands like Morton salt substitute and Morton light salt consist of 2800mg and 1300mg of potassium respectively.

Certain fruits and vegetables provides with ample amount of potassium. 

  • Sweet potato – it provides with highest amount of potassium, up to 950 mg. Other fruit preparation that provides potassium in the range of 850mg is baked potato, acorn squash and honey dew melon.
  • Fruits which can also be considered for potassium intake are banana (potassium level 451 mg), dried fig (668mg), dates (10 whole has 541 mg), mango (323mg), cantaloupe (450mg), dried apricots (482mg) and raisins (1/2 cup has 325mg).
  • Instead of orange and strawberry that supplies potassium up to 300mg, Orange juice have higher amount of potassium – up to 450mg .
  • 31/2 ounces of broiled lean beef, lamb sirloin and broiled pork loin provides with 426mg, 183mg and 375 mg of potassium respectively.

Calcium and High Blood Pressure

Calcium is another important mineral that helps in maintaining cell integrity. The function of cell depends on the balance between sodium-potassium-calcium. Variation in any of the three mineral leads to either blood pressure elevation or reduction.

Calcium is considered as macromineral because body require very high amount of calcium for proper bone health and controlled blood pressure. The basic daily requirement of calcium in men is 800mg and for women its 1500mg. This shows that women needs higher amount of calcium, and calcium intake should be particularly more during pregnancy period as it helps in maintaining the blood pressure of both mother of her child. Study at johns Hopkins university of Baltimore showed the decrease in diastolic blood pressure by 4-77mmHg in pregnant women’s when they started taking 1.5grams or 2 grams of calcium supplement daily.

Deficiency of calcium can lead to increase in blood pressure. Proper ratio of calcium outside and inside the cell is very essential for maintaining cell integrity. In situation where insufficient quantity of calcium is available or more amount of calcium is excreted, the concentration of calcium outside the cell membrane decreases. This causes influx of sodium into cell which makes blood vessel to constrict and finally rise in blood pressure is observed.

Although the daily recommended value of calcium is at least 800mg, but it is somewhat difficult to obtain such large quantities alone through diet. Some of the dietary sources of calcium are listed below.

  • Milk– milk is the major source of calcium. By drinking 3 glass of milk we get calcium equivalent to 800mg and for calcium and high blood pressure1500mg we have drink at least 5 glass of milk.
  • Green, leafy vegetables– vegetables like spinach and broccoli are rich supplier of calcium. To achieve 800mg calcium we need to have at least 25 stalks of broccoli or 25 ounce of spinach which are somewhat unlikely to be eaten every day and secondly the absorption of calcium is not proper when ingested via leafy vegetables.
  • Dairy products– low or non-fat dairy products are good source of calcium. Products like Yoghurt, ice-cream or cheese provides with sufficient amount of calcium. Avoid cottage cheese as it consists of salt in excess amount.
  • Juices– orange juice is an excellent source for calcium. Amount of calcium provided by orange juice is similar to the one obtained by milk. Another advantage of drinking orange juice is that it also supply another important ingredient i.e. potassium.
  • Calcium supplements– calcium is available in the marketed preparation in the form of calcium carbonate, calcium citrate or calcium gluconate.9 Most of the calcium in supplements is present as calcium carbonate like antacids which supplies calcium as calcium carbonate. Before buying check the label that indicates the quantity of calcium it consists. Vitamin D preparation can also be taken for maintaining bones health.

Magnesium and High Blood Pressure

In continuation with our discussion on mineral and high blood pressure, we now switch to the fourth mineral- Magnesium which is also considered as macromineral as we require 400mg of magnesium daily, being specific daily requirement for men is 420 mg and for women its 390 mg.

Magnesium relates various processes like facilitating metabolism process, helps in nerve conduction and muscle activity, and maintains cell integrity.  Thus indirectly it regulates level of sodium, potassium and calcium. Researches have shown that deficiency of magnesium affects the absorption of calcium. If the intake of magnesium is less, ranging between 200-400mg, the absorption of calcium would be lower. But when level of magnesium rises above 400mg, the calcium absorption would be proper. It also activates certain enzymes, and also essential for production of protein, fats and carbohydrates.

Most physicians believe that magnesium deficiency is not a serious issue as it doesn’t affects blood pressure. But latest studies have shown that more the magnesium intake, more the decrease in blood pressure will be observed. A study at johns Hopkins university at Baltimore was conducted to study the effect of magnesium on blood pressure. Patients were divided into two group, one having people with normal blood pressure and second one with people suffering from hypertension. They were given daily dose of magnesium ranging between 10-40mmol and 10mmol dose is increased every day. At the end of the study, systolic and diastolic blood pressure was reduced by 4.3mmHg and 2.3mmHg respectively.

Magnesium mainly comes from meat and dairy products. Banana, Beans, almonds and cashews also supplies with large amount of magnesium. Magnesium is even available in supplements form but most of the supplements have combination of calcium and magnesium. Read the contents on label properly before buying any supplement.

Thus at last we can say that all electrolytes like sodium-potassium-calcium – magnesium should be in correct balance in order to keep blood pressure in normal ranges. if you are having high blood pressure, you should plan your diet in a way so that it has less sodium content and more potassium, calcium and magnesium level.