There are few things in this world that bring me so much joy as the salty goodness of a fresh french fry. Fried foods, however, are usually off-limits in most balanced diets and are considered a cheat day food. While fried potatoes aren’t great for you, new research suggests that eating a healthy amount of boiled or baked potatoes may reduce blood pressure by increasing one’s intake of dietary potassium from whole foods!
A Heart-Safe Spud
Potatoes are naturally high in potassium, which helps muscles contract. By improving the function of cardiovascular muscles, potassium can effectively balance one’s blood pressure and balance the amount of sodium in the bloodstream. While grease and added salt from fried foods can wreak havoc on one’s health, mashed potatoes and baked fries preserve the natural potassium and can benefit one’s body in a variety of ways!
“While significant emphasis is often placed on reducing dietary sodium intakes to better control for blood pressure and cardiovascular disease risk, that’s only half of the story. Potassium plays just as an important role, and perhaps the ratio of potassium to sodium is most important in the context of the entire food matrix, as the potato meal resulted in a greater reduction of sodium retention than the potassium supplement alone,” explained the study’s primary investigator Connie Weaver, PhD.
An Epidemic of Hypertension
As of 2018, over 100 million Americans suffered from high blood pressure. This is also known as hypertension, which refers to the pressure of blood pushing against the arterial walls at any given time. Higher blood pressure over a sustained period of time can lead to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke, as well as other heart and overall health problems.
High Blood Pressure and the Body
Arteries are thin flexible tubes that carry blood from your heart and lungs to the rest of your organs and tissues. When high blood pressure creates tension within the arterial walls, fatty plaque begins to accumulate, causing the arteries to stiffen and become narrower. This prevents as much blood from reaching other vital structures around the body.
With less blood passing through, pressure continues to build within the artery, compounding the issue. If the pressure becomes too great, the arterial wall may burst, which is known as an aneurysm. Aneurysms can be life-threatening, as they cause internal bleeding.
Hypertension can also contribute to coronary artery disease (CAD), where plaque builds up and completely blocks off an artery. If an artery becomes closed off, the heart may start beating out of rhythm, known as an arrhythmia. This total blockage could lead to a heart attack, in which a portion of the heart is cut off from the body’s blood supply, effectively starving it of important nutrients and oxygen. For more information, check out our article on heart attacks and cardiac arrest.
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