Objective: to evaluate the effect of dietary potassium on blood pressure and vascular contractility in adult rats of two strains, spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHR) and normotensive Wistar-Kyoto (WKY) rats.
Design: 'Potassium-induced relaxation' was evaluated in aortic rings as a functional measure of Na,K-ATPase activity in the vascular wall. The rats were fed one of three diets: regular (American Institute of Nutrition-76 rat chow); high-sodium (7% sodium chloride) or high-sodium plus potassium (7% sodium chloride and 13.4% potassium citrate) for 12 +/- 1 weeks.
Results: SHR fed the high-sodium diet had a mean blood pressure of 157 +/- 8 mmHg, as compared with 130 +/- 9 mmHg for those on a regular diet (P < 0.01). SHR fed the potassium-supplemented diet had a blood pressure of 122 +/- 9 mmHg (P < 0.01 versus the high-sodium diet group). The mean blood pressure of WKY rats was 78 +/- 3 mmHg and did not differ among the dietary groups. The 'potassium-induced relaxation' response of aortic rings from SHR and WKY rats fed a potassium-supplemented diet was significantly higher (P < 0.05) than that in animals in the corresponding high-sodium dietary group. This observation in potassium-supplemented rats is interpreted as indicative of increased Na,K-ATPase activity in the vascular wall.
Conclusions: A potassium-rich diet in SHR receiving a high sodium intake was associated with lower blood pressure and higher vascular Na,K-ATPase activity. A similar effect of this diet on vascular Na,K-ATPase was observed in WKY. We propose that the antihypertensive effect of a potassium-rich diet is mediated, at least in part, by stimulation of vascular Na,K-ATPase activity.