Potassium-rich diet wards off stroke

August 17, 2011 in Heart Health, Nutrition for Older Adults, Nutrition Topics in the News

Potassium-rich diet wards off stroke

After reviewing 10 international studies involving more than 200,000 middle aged and older adults, researchers have concluded that people who eat plenty of fruits, vegetables and dairy products - foods high in potassium - have a lower risk of stroke compared to folks whose diets provide little of the mineral.

The findings revealed that a person's risk of stroke decreased as potassium intake increased. For each 1,000 milligram increase in daily potassium, the risk of suffering a stroke in the next five to 14 years dropped by 11 percent.

Potassium is an electrolyte needed for maintaining the body's fluid balance. It's also involved in nerve and muscle control and blood pressure regulation. Previous studies have suggested that diets high in potassium help maintain a healthy blood pressure and possibly protect against heart disease and stroke.

In this analysis, potassium was specifically linked to lower risk of ischemic strokes -- those caused by a blockage in an artery that feeds the brain; ischemic strokes account for about 80 percent of strokes.

Potassium was not linked to a lower risk of hemorrhagic stroke, they type that occurs when there is bleeding in the brain.

These findings concur with a recent U.S. study that followed more than 12,000 adults for 15 years. People who consumed a lot of sodium but little potassium were more likely to die from any cause during the study period.

Potassium helps balance the effects of sodium, keeping blood pressure down and helping the body excrete excess fluids. It's thought the combination of too much sodium and too little potassium is especially harmful.

Healthy adults should get no more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day. Certain people -- adults older than 50, African Americans, and people with high blood pressure, diabetes or kidney disease -- should limit sodium to 1,500 mg a day.

Adults are advised to consume 4,700 milligrams of potassium each day from their diet. Click here for a list of potassium rich foods.

Some people, however, need to be careful about their potassium intake including people with kidney disease and those on certain blood pressure-lowering drugs. High levels of potassium in the blood can lead to dangerous heart-rhythm disturbances.

The study was published online in the journal Stroke.

All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.