A study carried out in the US suggests that those with high levels of potassium in their diets are less likely to suffer from potentially fatal stroke.
The research was carried out using postmenopausal women and showed that those who ate the most potassium were 12% less likely to suffer from stroke in general. On top of this, those who ate the most potassium were 10% less likely to die.
The research looked at the dietary and health habits of over 90,000 postmenopausal women (aged 50-79) for an average of 11 years.
The results of this showed that eating foods rich in potassium (such as broccoli, dates and bananas) could help to lower the risk of stroke in women over the age of 50.
The study tracked the amount of potassium participants consumed, whether or not they had a stroke (including ischaemic and haemorrhagic) and whether or not they had died. All the women taking part were stroke free at the beginning of the study and were consuming an average of 2,611 milligrams of potassium a day (from food, not supplements).
It was found that among those whose blood pressure was normal and did not take medication to regulate it, participants who ate the most potassium were 21% less likely to suffer from stroke compared to those who ate the least amount of potassium. Among those with high blood pressure the potassium increase did not affect stroke risk, but did reduce risk of death.
Researchers have therefore concluded that potassium intake is more likely to lower stroke risk before blood pressure gets too high.
Discussing the outcomes, senior author of the study, Dr Sylvia Wassertheil-Smoller said:
“Previous studies have shown that potassium consumption may lower blood pressure. But whether potassium intake could prevent stroke or death wasn’t clear.
“Our findings give women another reason to eat their fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are good sources of potassium, and potassium not only lowers postmenopausal women’s risk of stroke, but also death.”
Current guidelines recommend adult men and women to consume 4,700 milligrams of potassium a day. This study found that just 2.8% of participants were meeting this recommended level.
Researchers have however warned that while increasing potassium is probably a good idea for most women over the age of 50, there are some people who have too much potassium in their blood which can lead to heart problems. Therefore you are always recommended to check with your doctor before making any dietary changes.