Ladies: You’re Probably Getting Too Little of This “Magic Mineral”
Back in my high school days, the common home remedy for muscle cramps was to eat a banana. The logic was that low potassium levels can cause cramping… and bananas are high in potassium.
Since muscle cramps have many causes, this advice won’t solve camping for most people. But getting more potassium may be a smart move … especially if you’re a woman.
You need potassium (K) for healthy cellular function – especially for your nerve cells and muscles. If the K level in your blood drops too low, you may experience cramps, twitches, weakness, and even irregular heartbeat.
Fortunately, severe K shortages aren’t very common. But many people don’t get enough. And studies show these people are at risk for serious long-term health problems.
You see, you get most of your K from eating fruits and vegetables. An adult needs about 4,700 mg of potassium a day. And a banana – one of the richest sources – has less than 1/10 of that amount.
And that’s where the problem is. Most adults in the U.S. don’t get enough fruit and vegetables in their diet. And most nutritional supplements contain very little K. So it’s no surprise that large studies have found many adults get only about half the K they need each day.
As I said, severe K shortages aren’t extremely common. But low-grade shortages are. And here’s why everyone – especially women – should make an effort to get more.
Weak, brittle bones are a common problem for mature adults. Getting more K appears to improve bone mass.
A team from England’s University of Surrey studied the bones and diets of a group of healthy women. They found the women who ate the highest amounts of potassium had more bone mass.1
Potassium promotes healthy blood pressure, too.
Researchers found a clear link between K intake and blood pressure in a university study of more than 17,000 adults. After taking other variables into account, a higher K intake was linked to lower blood pressure across the board.2
New research confirms yet another possible benefit from getting more K in your diet. And it’s a biggie… A lower risk of death from all causes.
Of course, getting enough K won’t protect you from accidents. But doctors reviewing the Women’s Health Initiative study say it appears to lower women’s risk of death from “natural causes” by 10%.
They also looked at deaths caused by reduced blood flow to the brain – a common cause of disability and death. Women with the highest K intakes were up to 27% less likely to die from this cause than women with lower intakes.3
Bananas are a good source of potassium. But you can get as much potassium – without all the calories and carbs – from a half-cup of spinach. A half-cup of acorn squash or Lima beans provides even more K than a banana.
However you get it, potassium can be a potent addition to your anti-aging toolkit.
Yours in continued good health,
Dr Kenneth Woliner, M.D.
1 New, S.A., et al, “Dietary influences on bone mass and bone metabolism: further evidence of a positive link between fruit and vegetable consumption and bone health?” Am J Clin Nutr. Jan 2000; 71(1): 142-151.
2 Hajjar, I.M., et al, “Impact of diet on blood pressure and age-related changes in blood pressure in the US population: analysis of NHANES III,” Arch Intern Med. Feb 26, 2001; 161(4): 589-593.
3 Seth, A., et al, “Potassium Intake and Risk of Stroke in Women With Hypertension and Nonhypertension in the Women’s Health Initiative,” Stroke. 2014; 45: 2874-2880.