Although blood pressure is the result of different factors, the common denominator is extreme salt and the improper balance of potassium and sodium. These two are the major electrolytes of the body in the production of energy, nerve conduction, cell integrity, to name a few. They are the producers of the body’s electricity. The balance of proportion between sodium and potassium is known as K-factor in diets.
Every tissue and organ has body cells composed of potassium, sodium, magnesium, calcium and chloride which are submerged in fluid. The intracellular fluid contains more potassium than sodium while it is the other way around in the extracellular fluid.
The cells will function properly if there is the accurate balance of sodium and potassium or K-factor in diets which is important in controlling high blood pressure.
The instinct to pull the hand immediately from a hot oven and the normal beating of the heart are examples of the proper ratio of potassium and sodium in the body. If there is distortion, this Blood balance can be life threatening.
The correct ratio is about three parts of potassium to one part of sodium, K-factor ratio (potassium divided by sodium), which is also applicable to animals. Plants do not require this but helps in balancing excess sodium because of their ratio of about 10 to 20 parts of potassium to one part of sodium.
The importance of K-factor in diets to control high blood pressure can be exemplified when there is an oversupply of sodium in the extracellular fluids. To return everything to normal, the kidneys will initially expel the excess sodium.
However, if the kidneys fail to emit the sodium from the blood, the peripheral vascular system will constrict and the resistance to blood flow will increase, the result is high blood pressure. The blood pressure rises because the kidneys are excreting plenty of sodium.
In order to control this, the medical profession introduced diuretics to treat high blood pressure. In diuretics, more fluid is expelled from the body together with sodium chloride. This is effective in the early stage of high blood pressure.
However, the kidneys are also required to emit potassium, hence the deficiency in potassium. As a remedy, doctors prescribe potassium supplements and drinking of plenty of water as replenishments.
Since potassium and sodium are almost present in the foods we eat, it is best to increase potassium and decrease sodium in our diet.
In order to remember this, here are some dietary guides:
1. Except breakfast, eat one to three types of fresh vegetables. Never add salt if boiled, steamed or stir-fried. Examples of fresh vegetables are spinach, potatoes, carrots, etc.
2. During breakfast, eat cereals like unsalted cereal, oatmeal, puffed rice and wheat germ together with a soy beverage or a low-fat milk.
3. Eat peas, beans and whole grains but not black beans.
4. Keep away from eating processed foods due to its salt content. In you can’t resist the cravings, look for the label which has 2 times more potassium than sodium.
5. Try to avoid salt in every food. Instead, use hot pepper sauce as substitutes.
6. Always eat fresh fruits. Ice cream, sherbet and ice milk can be eaten but refrain from pies, cakes or baked products.
7. Buy a cookbook with emphasis on low-sodium diet.
These dietary changes may be different from your current way of life. If following the K-factor in diets will become a habit, you will realize its importance in controlling high blood pressure which will lead to a better health.