How Potassium Helps Your Heart

Medically Reviewed by James Beckerman, MD, FACC on April 06, 2023
2 min read


Potassium plays a role in every heartbeat. A hundred thousand times a day, it helps trigger your heart to squeeze blood through your body.

It also helps your muscles to move, your nerves to work, and your kidneys to filter blood.

The best way to get enough potassium is to eat fruits and vegetables. It's also in dairy products, whole grains, meat, and fish.

Other great sources include:

• Potatoes

• Tomatoes

• Avocados

• Fresh fruits (bananas, oranges, and strawberries)

• Orange juice

• Dried fruits (raisins, apricots, prunes, and dates)

• Spinach

• Beans and peas

Potassium doesn't treat or prevent heart disease. But getting enough of it can help your heart in many ways:

Better blood pressure: A diet high in fruits, vegetables and fat-free or low-fat dairy foods can help cut systolic blood pressure by more than 10 points in people with high blood pressure.

You shouldn’t take potassium pills unless your doctor recommends it.

Lower cholesterol: While there's no direct link between the two, many diets that lower cholesterol are also high in potassium, as well as fruits and veggies. If you drop your LDL (bad cholesterol), the chance you’ll get heart disease will also go down.

Regulated heartbeat: Potassium enables your heart to beat in a healthy way. So, if you have rhythm problems, potassium may be key. Your doctor can advise you on that. A check might be part of your routine doctor visits.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends 4,700 milligrams per day for healthy people. The easiest way to get this amount is by adding high-potassium fruits and vegetables to your diet.

It's possible to get too much of a good thing, though. Ask your doctor before starting a potassium supplement.

If you have kidney failure or other kidney problems, talk with your doctor about how much potassium you should get.

Some medications can raise your levels, including some ACE inhibitors, spironolactone (Aldactone), triamterene, and trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole (Bactrim).

Some diuretics for heart failure can make you lose potassium in your pee. If you are taking one, have your levels checked. If yours are low, you can raise them by taking a supplement or eating more potassium-rich foods.