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Increased potassium intakes may reduce stroke risk

September 15, 2014

A new US study suggests that older women who eat foods with higher amounts of potassium may have a reduced stroke and death risk.

In the observational study, the dietary potassium intake of 90,137 postmenopausal women, aged 50 to 79 years, was estimated and cases of stroke and death was documented for an average 11 years (1). The study results showed that women who ate the most potassium were 12% less likely to suffer stroke in general and 16% less likely to suffer an ischemic stroke than women who ate the least. Women who ate the most potassium were 10% less likely to die than those who ate the least. Among participants who did not have hypertension (whose blood pressure was normal and they were not on any medications for high blood pressure), those who ate the most potassium had a 27% lower ischemic stroke risk and 21% reduced risk for all stroke types, compared to women who ate the least potassium in their daily diets. Among participants with hypertension (whose blood pressure was high or they were taking drugs for high blood pressure), those who ate the most potassium had a lower risk of death, but potassium intake did not lower their stroke risk. The average dietary potassium intake was 2,611 mg/day.

The researchers concluded that these findings give women another reason to eat fruits and vegetables which are good sources of potassium, such as bananas, white and sweet potatoes and white beans. Higher dietary potassium intake may be more beneficial before high blood pressure develops. Previous studies have shown that potassium consumption may lower blood pressure (2). The new study did not take sodium intake into consideration, so the potential importance of a balance between sodium and potassium is not among the findings. The researchers said more studies are needed to determine whether potassium has the same effects on men and younger people.

The US Department of Agriculture recommends that women eat at least 4,700 mg of potassium daily. Only 2.8% of women in the study met or exceeded this level. The World Health Organization's daily potassium recommendation for women is lower, at 3,510 mg or more.

References

  1. Seth A. et al. Potassium Intake and Risk of Stroke in Women With Hypertension and Nonhypertension in the Women’s Health Initiative. Stroke. Published online September 2014.
  2. Aaron K. J. and Sanders P. W. Role of dietary salt and potassium intake in cardiovascular health and disease: a review of the evidence. Mayo Clin Proc. 2013; 88(9):987–995.