If you have high blood pressure, heart failure, or heart rhythm problems, getting enough potassium can be especially important. Although potassium and cholesterol aren't directly related, eating a potassium-rich diet might lower your cholesterol, too.
Research suggests that getting enough potassium can benefit the heart in several important ways:
High blood pressure. In a study of people with high blood pressure, taking potassium supplements reduced systolic blood pressure -- the top number -- by about 8 points. But you don’t have to pop potassium pills. A diet high in fruits and vegetables and fat-free or low-fat dairy foods can help lower systolic blood pressure by more than 10 points in people with hypertension.
Cholesterol. There's no direct link between potassium and cholesterol. But many diets proven to lower cholesterol are also high in potassium. When you’re focused on getting enough potassium, you'll probably end up eating more fruits and vegetables, which are low in saturated fat and cholesterol. This will help your cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of heart disease.
Abnormal heart rhythms. Potassium plays a role in every heartbeat. So, for abnormal heart rhythms, potassium may be key. Your doctor can advise you on that. You’ll need to see a doctor on a regular basis; and a periodic potassium check might be part of your routine visits.
How Much Potassium Do You Need?
How much potassium should you be eating? The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends 4,700 milligrams of potassium per day for healthy people. The easiest way to get this amount is by adding high-potassium fruits and vegetables to your diet.
When it comes to potassium, it is possible to have too much of a good thing. Most healthy people shouldn't have any problems from eating a high-potassium diet or taking potassium supplements as directed. But if you have kidney failure or other kidney problems, check with your doctor about how much potassium you should get.