Potassium is active in circulation and increases vascular flow. In the cases of the brain and the skeletal muscle, the increased flow supports the increased metabolism needed when these two tissues are more active.
Potassium is a vasodilator that is the most common ion on the inside of living cells. When muscles contract, potassium is released from those muscles. The potassium released has a relaxation effect on the tiny blood vessels called arterioles and this results in increased local blood flow. A drop in potassium levels results in vasoconstriction. Dietary supplementation with potassium results in vessel wall relaxation and reduced resistance to blood flow in the blood vessels.
The lining cells of the blood vessels release chemicals that increase or decrease the general tone of the circulation. Relaxing factors include nitric oxide (NO) and the blood vessels can also release potassium to cause relaxation.
Blood pressure is influenced by dietary potassium in normal and hypertensive patients. The response of potassium supplementation on hypertension may take up to 4 weeks to get results. African Americans consume less potassium than Caucasians on the average and hypertension in African Americans has been shown to be associated with low potassium intake.
In hypertensive patients potassium lowers blood pressure. Excessive sodium consumption results in urinary potassium loss and increased blood pressure, which can reverse with potassium supplementation.
The daily intake of potassium is 2 gm. and probably should be increased to 5 gm. Excessive potassium intake should be avoided in people with kidney disease.
Diuretics given for hypertension can result in a potassium loss that can cause in an unexpected worsening of the hypertension for which diuretics were given in the first place.
CONCLUSION: Potassium improves blood flow and potassium supplementation has been shown to be of benefit in lowering blood pressure in hypertensive patients.
NOTE: Arginine is a source of nitric oxide (NO).
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